The director of the Alexander Assisted Living facility just south of Taylorsville was arrested late Wednesday in front of residents she now is accused of stealing from.
Holly Lawing, 37, is accused of obtaining controlled substance by fraud or subterfuge. Investigators believe she was taking the opioid Hydromorphone and Xanax. That medication was supposed to go to certain residents to control their pain.
Deputies believe Lawing took those medications and substituted them with over-the-counter pain pills.
"That left some people there suffering in pain that they didn't have to," said Alexander County Sheriff Chris Bowman.
The investigation, Bowman said, began with a tip from another agency last year. Only recently was enough evidence found to bring charges. Lawing was arrested and jailed under a $20,000 bond.
Public records show she was convicted of a similar charge in Burke County six years ago. She was given probation for that felony conviction. Bowman wonders how she could have attained director status at the assisted living center with a criminal record. State law requires a background check for administrators of such facilities.
"I don't understand how she got by," the sheriff said.
WBTV called the facility and spoke with a man who identified himself as Kenneth Ramsey, who said he is the owner. When asked about what happened and how Lawing could have become director with her criminal record, the man said, "I have no comment."
State facilities inspectors are aware of the latest incident and said they will be looking into the current situation. The facility, which has beds for 32 people, currently has a score of 33.5 out of 100 from the state. It has been cited for violations involving supervision, medication, and paperwork issues.
The facility has been operating under a provisional license since last spring, with new admissions suspended until the violations are corrected. It's believed the facility has 21 residents at this time.
As for the criminal charges against Lawing, Bowman says the investigation is not over and more charges are possible.