Spanish police have arrested two care home owners who allegedly defrauded and abused elderly people in their care.
Officers rescued two elderly people who had been kept in a “house of horrors” by a Cuban-German couple who ran a private care home in Chiclana de la Frontera, near Cadiz in southern Spain, the Guardia Civil said in a statement.
The couple are accused of stealing 1.8 million euros ($2.02 million) from five victims over four years.
An investigation, known as Operation Teydea, resulted in the rescue of a Dutch woman and a German man who were kept locked up and fed through unnecessary nasogastric tubes, said the Guardia Civil.
Inquiries began when police from Frankfurt am Main in Germany contacted the Spanish force to ask for information about 101-year-old German citizen Maria Babes.
Babes had recently moved from Tenerife in the Canary Islands to the Cadiz area but had not been heard from for some time.
Spanish authorities tracked her down to the care home in Chiclana de la Frontera, and learned that she had been admitted to various local hospitals due to poor health.
Medical records suggested she might have been neglected, and her financial records were further cause for alarm.
The couple had stolen more than 160,000 euros from her bank account, said the Guardia Civil, and sold her house in Tenerife without her knowledge.
After finding Babes, Spanish authorities moved her to a different care home, and she told the Guardia Civil she had been kept with her hands bound for months after the couple convinced her to move from Tenerife so they could look after her.
However, the couple managed to take her away from the new care home not long after she arrived, the police said.
She was in good health when she left at 11 a.m. according to the Guardia Civil, but five hours later the couple reported that she had died while traveling in their car.
“The death was strange given that that morning a video was shot showing her in perfectly good health and playing the tambourine during Christmas breakfast in the home,” the police statement said.
The couple insisted on a quick cremation and there was no chance to perform an autopsy, police said, adding that the coroner had remarked on how the couple insisted that they didn’t want to take the urn containing Babes’ ashes, despite professing their love for her.
The couple are currently in prison, charged with fraud, falsifying documents, continuous misappropriation, mistreatment in a family setting, defrauding the German social security system, planning law violations, money laundering, disobeying officers of authority and asset stripping.
Four more people were arrested and nine others investigated for crimes related to laundering the victims’ money, which officials say was used to build a holiday complex.