CHANDLER, AZ - The owner of two Valley assisted living facilities is addressing allegations that she withheld security deposits after clients passed away.
Two people complained to us, that they couldn't get theirs from owner Bianca Gilmore.
Val Bongiorno's dad stayed at Gilmore's facility Casa Dora Manor in Chandler.
"It's very poetic he died, on his 63rd anniversary," said Bongiorno.
When his dad passed, he says he asked for the $4,500 security deposit back.
But says he got a check that was no good.
"When it bounced, 'I said what's going on here?," said Bongiorno.
We also heard from Beverly.
She asked for a $4,000 security deposit back after her aunt died. She was living at Gilmore's Casa Maia facility also in Chandler.
Beverly says Gilmore only offered $3,000.
So both Beverly and Bongiorno complained to the Board of Examiners of Nursing Care Institution Administrators and Assisted Living Facility Managers. The agency regulates assisted living managers.
They also let me know.
We repeatedly reached out to Gilmore about their claims, and recently got detailed explanations. But the answers have been confusing to us.
For example, regarding Bongiorno's refund, in June of 2014 Gilmore sent us an email saying "I did not have a returned check in the amount of $4,500."
However since our last story aired, she writes there was a check and it "was written without regard to the other simultaneous financial commitments made at the time. At that time, there was also a change in financial management."
In January 2015, Gilmore's attorney Raees Mohammad writes "Val may arguably have been entitled to half of his monthly fee, or $2,250." Now in a recent response to us, Gilmore implies Bongiorno was not owed anything per contract, because his dad's death was "unexpected."
After her aunt's death, Beverly says she also asked for a deposit refund of $4000.
In a July 2014 letter to Beverly, Gilmore responded to the request by giving what she called, an "explanation of the refund owed." The letter offers $3,000 instead of $4,000, citing expenses for Gilmore's husband helping Beverly's aunt in moving.
Beverly says a check for $1,500 was enclosed in the letter, with the stipulation that a second check in the amount of $1500 would arrive a month later. But if she cashed them, she would forfeit the additional $1,000 she believes she is owed. Gilmore says she sent both checks. Beverly says the second check never came and she never cashed the first one.
Beverly also says she responded by offering to allow Gilmore to keep $500 rather than $1,000. Since Gilmore had already sent a check for $1,500, Beverly says she wrote Gilmore a letter asking her to send an additional $2,000 as a remainder of the refund to settle the matter. In it she writes, "I shall be glad to put this matter to rest upon payment of the $2,000 hat I am willing to accept, as full payment." Beverly says she never got a response from Gilmore about her request.
In recent email to us, Gilmore says "under the agreement, no refunds were due," and that it was simply a "goodwill gesture." Gilmore also writes "Unfortunately, instead of accepting my goodwill payments, Beverly decided to embarrass and humiliate me, by going on television and making false, disparaging remarks about my businesses and me."
Gilmore also points to a letter Beverly's aunt wrote saying her deposit could be used for her last month there.
But the aunt died just days into that month.
The state Board that regulates assisted living managers investigated Bongiorno and Beverly's complaints, as well as two others involving Gilmore and refunds.
Initially, the Board voted that the complaints had enough "substantial evidence" to go to a formal hearing.
But in February, the Board instead opted to issue "letters of concern."
Saying "while there is insufficient evidence to support disciplinary action, the Board believes that continuation of the activities that led to the investigation may result in further Board action."
It also expressed concern that Gilmore "failed to communicate and resolve financial matters with clients in a timely manner."
It's an accusation Gilmore denies. In a statement to us she writes "the "filed complaints" have all been dismissed, and other than disgruntled family members coming into the picture after their loved one passed away, I cannot posture as to why this sentiment was expressed in the dismissed complaint."
Regarding the refunds, Board Executive Director Allen Imig tells me "the Board has no authority to order restitution."
However after we got involved Gilmore did end up paying Bongiorno $4,500.
Beverly is still fighting.
She's filed a lawsuit asking for a judge to make the call.
In court documents, Gilmore says she plans to counter sue her for defamation.
Gilmore has also threatened to take us to court. She has also asked us to retract "false and defamatory statements."
We stand by our stories and will continue to follow any new developments.
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