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Rehab center resident accused in molestation of elderly woman

PALM HARBOR — A 50-year-old man with a lengthy criminal record was arrested Monday after he was observed molesting an 86-year-old woman at a rehabilitation center, police said.

David Antonio Perez was charged with lewd and lascivious battery of an elderly or disabled adult, according to a Pinellas County Sheriff's Office arrest affidavit. Jail records indicate that Perez's home address was at 2600 Highlands Blvd. N, site of the Bay Tree Care and Rehabilitation Center.

Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Cecilia Barreda said the crime took place at a rehabilitation center where Perez is a resident. The Sheriff's Office did not disclose the woman's name or where she lives, since she is a victim of an alleged sex crime.

Bay Tree is run by SunBridge Healthcare, a national chain of medical facilities. According to its website, the center offers skilled nursing services and rehabilitation therapy to adults over both short- and long-term stays.

"As a nursing home administrator, the safety and care of our residents as well as our employees is our priority," Bay Tree Administrator Michele Bain said in a statement. "I fully support the actions taken by our staff, which are in accordance with our procedures, to immediately report this incident to the proper authorities and to the state agency.

"Our team will cooperate fully with any impending investigation," she added. "We are unable to comment further at this time out of concern for the privacy of our residents."

According to the affidavit, Perez was seen by two staff members touching the victim in a "lewd or lascivious manner."

Perez has been arrested 22 times in Florida, according to state Department of Law Enforcement records. In 2002, he was sentenced to prison on charges including battery on a law enforcement officer and trafficking in stolen property.

Shelisha Coleman, press secretary for the state Agency for Health Care Administration, said there are no background screening requirements for residents of nursing homes. Such screenings are required for nursing home employees, she said.

Perez was being held at the Pinellas County Jail Tuesday on $10,513 bail.

Peter Jamison can be reached at pjamison@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4157. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

Rehab center resident accused in molestation of elderly woman 08/21/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 21, 2012 7:20pm]
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