A woman charged with bilking $700 from senior citizens who had been entrusted to her care at an unlicensed elderly group home was arrested last week in Anne Arundel County, authorities said.

Kimberly Boffen, 25, whose last known address was in the 4900 block of Avoca Avenue in Ellicott City, was arrested Tuesday on a warrant charging her with one count of felony theft.

Police said a tip from a citizen led them to Boffen at a home in Glen Burnie, where she was staying with a friend.

She later was released from the Howard County Detention Center on $2,500 bond. Her trial date is set for Oct. 24.

Boffen provided personal care for four senior citizens, ages 74 through 86, at her Avoca Avenue house, which had not received the necessary registration to operate as an elderly group home, said Diane Perry, the housing coordinator for the county Office on Aging.

Each of the residents paid Boffen a monthly fee for room, board and care. County Department of Social Services officials are looking into whether any fines for negligence may be leviedagainst Boffen for allegedly leaving the residents behind.

On June 17, Boffen moved her furniture out of the home and left the residents, even though she had collected $700 in advance from one of the residents, social services officials said.

The resident's family obtained an arrest warrant in county District Court, charging Boffen withtheft of services owed.

County social workers assisted the four residents out of the Avoca Avenue home on the night Boffen left.

None appeared to have been mistreated during their stay at the group home, which Boffen had opened in early April.

They have all since been relocated to their family's homes or other facilities, Perry said.

In the wake of the incident, Perry has prepared a "tip sheet" forfamilies who wish to verify the legitimacy of an elderly group home.

The families of the four residents of the Avoca Avenue house weretold by Boffen that the home had a registration from the Department of Mental Health and Hygiene and a certification from the Maryland Office on Aging, Perry said.

In fact, it had neither, she said.

Perry said the county Office on Aging had received an inquiry from Boffen several months ago about the possibility of obtaining the necessary permits to operate an elderly group facility.

But no paperwork was completed, Perry said.

"The residents who went to this home entrusted themselves without knowing" that the home was unlicensed, Perry said. "We have 13 certified homes in the county that do a wonderful job, but these people just didn't know where to find them."

Eachof the residents had been paying between $600 and $700 a month to live and be cared for at the home.

The county Office on Aging offersthese suggestions for those interested in finding a suitable group home:

* Check to make sure the home has its authorization credentials. All care homes are required by law to display their certificate or license.

* Legitimate homes will have a contract available for inspection. If they do not, ask why they don't.

* The home operators should request and receive background medical information from a physician.

If they do not, they may not be interested in providing the best possible care.

* Ask about a typical day at the home, and about staffing that will be provided.

* Whenever possible, make time to meet the weekend and relief staff who will be in charge of yourfamily member when the main staff leaves.

Howard County residentswho know of unauthorized homes in their neighborhood or who have questions about placing a relative in a home should call the county Office on Aging at 313-7210.

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