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Caretaker arrested after Pearl Harbor vet found in squalor

2:38 PM EST, January 27, 2011

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SANTEE, Calif. -- Deputies arrested the paid caretaker of a 93-year-old Pearl Harbor veteran for allegedly neglecting him while looting thousands of dollars from his life's savings.

Deputies discovered the World War II Navy veteran and his nurse, 62-year-old Milagros Angeles, living in filth and "squalor'' in the man's home on Euclid Avenue in an unincorporated area near El Cajon when they went there Tuesday to check on the man's welfare, San Diego Sheriff's Sgt. Mark Varnau said.

The case came to light after the man's bank discovered a series of suspicious checks drawn on his account. Bank employees said they hadn't seen the man for about six months and they contacted county Adult Protective Services with their fears that he was being taken advantage of.

Deputies went to the man's home and had to jump over a locked gate to get to the house. They found the elderly man was holding a photograph of the USS Vestal, the ship he served on during the war. The coal ship was anchored next to the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack on Dec. 7, 1941.

The man was disoriented and dehydrated, Varnau said.

"It appears he has advanced Alzheimer's," Varnau said. "He can engage in conversation for a very short period of time and then he drifts off. He is very vulnerable and very much open to being victimized and manipulated."

Conditions inside the house were deplorable, Varnau said. The kitchen was full of rotting food. Unwashed dishes and filthy containers were piled everywhere. The rest of the house was in a similar state, he said. The bathrooms didn't appear to be in working order, dirty clothing lay in piles, rat and mouse feces were visible everywhere.

In addition to the neglect, investigators found evidence that Angeles had stolen at least $36,000 from the man's savings accounts, Varnau said, but the total could be as much as $100,000.

"The exact amount stolen from the victim is currently undetermined,'' Varnau said. "However, Angeles was employed by the victim for three years.''

Angeles, a citizen of the Philippines, was arrested and booked into Las Colinas women's jail in Santee on suspicion of elder abuse and theft by a caretaker. She was being held on $100,000 bail pending an initial court hearing scheduled for Thursday afternoon.

Investigators haven't released the victim's name, but he has a son in Santa Barbara and a daughter in San Pedro, neither of whom were aware of the state their father was living in, Varnau said.

The man is currently being treated at a local hospital for dehydration. Before he is released, his doctors, family and Adult Protective Services will come up with a plan to either return him to his cleaned up home with a health care provider or move him to an assisted living facility, Varnau said.

Angeles has not cooperated with investigators, Varnau said. She is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday afternoon.