Four who took over elderly woman’s home sentenced 

Four suspected gang members accused of running a drug operation from the Mission district apartment of an elderly woman suffering from dementia for months before being reported to police were sentenced Tuesday.

Last May, six people were arrested when police entered the apartment of 84-year-old Ellen Gutierrez after receiving complaints from city caregivers, who said they were being threatened. Police found methamphetamine, ammunition anda loaded handgun and arrested Alberto Torres, 23, Jose Serrano, 23, Christina Serrano, 24, who is no relation to Jose Serrano, and Karla Pena, 23, along with a juvenile who is now awaiting trial. Another suspect, Raul Reyes, 22, was arrested but later released.

"We’re gratified that these individuals will be serving time for what they did," said Debbie Mesloh, spokeswoman for the district attorney.

The case prompted an internal investigation into The City’s elderly care program for the poor that highlighted multiple lapses and prompted Mayor Gavin Newsom to recommended hiring 14 additional social workers to overcome staffing shortages.

"We didn’t intervene soon enough," City Human Services Director Trent Rhorer said at the time of the investigation.

Prior to the defendants’ arrests, food delivery and housecleaning services to Gutierrez’s house had been stopped due to the risk of harm to caregivers, according to District Attorney Kamala Harris’ office.

"City-contracted service providers had received threats from persons staying with the victim, including defendant Christina Serrano, just five days before the defendants’ arrests," according to the District Attorney’s Office. Two nurses who went to check on Gutierrez on May 18, 2005, found her and several of the defendants in the apartment. There was virtually no food and Gutierrez was unkempt and very thin, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Torres, of San Francisco, was sentenced to three years in state prison for maintaining a place of narcotics sales. Jose Serrano, of Richmond, was sentenced to two years in state prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm. Christina Serrano, of San Francisco, was sentenced to three years felony probation, after serving six months in county jail, for felony elder abuse. Pena, of San Francisco, was sentenced to three years felony probation, after serving one year in the county jail, for felony elder abuse.

ecarpenter@examiner.com

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