On October 11, 2005, a 16-year-old named Kendrick, who had been accused of raping another teenage boy, was found mentally incompetent to stand trial. A judge ordered him sent to live at a North Miami Beach group home run by Daphne Campbell, a Haitian-American nurse.
Campbell assured the court her employees would provide round-the-clock supervision. After all, it was the second time Kendrick had been accused of such a crime. "Staff will be with him everywhere he goes," she told Judge Lester Langer.
Three months later, Kendrick was staying in a four-bedroom house at 80 NE 174 Dr., part of a ten-facility chain Campbell operated. On December 15, the young man lured M.C., a mentally challenged, schizophrenic, 48-year-old woman with heart problems, into her room and raped her, according to a state investigative report. After the assault, M.C. "suffered episodes of vomiting" and was taken to the hospital. She was quickly released back to the group home but died the following morning. Authorities attributed her death to "natural causes."
M.C. was just one of four disabled people to die while under Campbell's care in a one-year period. On October 12, 2006, the state terminated its contract with her company, Professional Group Homes Inc. But that's not the only stain on Campbell, who this past August 24 won a seat in the state House of Representatives for a district that comprises North Miami, Miami Shores, and Little Haiti.
Her husband is in bankruptcy, two of their properties are in foreclosure, and a pair of Jamaican Seventh-day Adventists whom Campbell met at a church service claim she tricked them out of thousands of dollars. "This woman cannot be trusted," warns Rose White, one of the two. "She is a scammer. I don't care if she's going to Tallahassee."
Campbell denies any wrongdoing but declines to talk about the group homes and deaths. She says the Jamaican women are lying, and adds that her husband's financial problems will not hamper her public service. "I'm a good person," she says. "I'm going to do everything I can to fight the good fight in the capital so that the people in my district have a voice."
Born in Cap-Haïtien, Campbell was raised by her mom. She obtained a nursing degree in Port-au-Prince and in 1981 moved to New York City, where she met her Jamaican husband, Hubert. The couple had two children. The family relocated to North Miami Beach in 1987.
In 2002, the Campbells incorporated Professional Group Homes, a chain of facilities for disabled people in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Lee counties. Daphne was the company's chief executive, and Hubert was the marketing director. The business, which included ten homes, began to unravel after M.C.'s rape and death. Things worsened when three others died in her care:
• In April 2006, a resident at a home in Lehigh Acres was admitted to a hospital with a facial cut and a fungal infection. He passed away soon after.
• In July 2006, a resident at the same property perished after choking on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
• In August 2006, a man living in another of the Campbells' group homes in Miami expired of a suspected bowel obstruction two days after entering a hospital.
Inspectors also found rodent droppings on food shelves, and dead roaches on the floor of the facilities. And employees complained of working 80-hour weeks. In September 2006, the state terminated the Campbells' contract, effectively shutting down all ten homes. Melanie Etters, a spokeswoman for the state Agency for Persons With Disabilities, says Campbell had to relinquish her license to run group homes. "But she can still provide nursing services to the disabled," Etters explains. (Campbell at first claimed the state had overturned its decision, but then she declined to comment when confronted with Etters's statement.)
The company was dissolved in October 2006, right around the time Hubert Campbell met Rose White during a service at the Seventh-day Adventist church where they were all members. (White declined to name it.) A petite 59-year-old mental health counselor with a bob hairdo and a thick Jamaican accent, she had recently received her state license to run a home for the handicapped.
"A fellow church friend informed me the Campbells had a house for sale that was already equipped with a fire alarm system," White recounts. "Hubert told me that he and his wife had a lot of experience in the field because they had operated group homes. He offered their assistance. They did not tell me the state had shut them down.
"Daphne Campbell said, 'God brought you to us,'" White continues. "I felt I was in good hands. It was the biggest mistake of my life." White claims the Campbells used the property to trick her into sharing her credit history and information about her company, Heart of Love Home Care Inc.
Hubert Campbell persuaded her to open a business account with a Wachovia Bank branch in North Miami Beach for her business expenses, she says. But then the deal for White to buy the Campbells' house fell through. The older woman's credit score was too low to qualify for the loan.
White did not see the Campbells again for about a year. Then, she claims, things took a turn for the weird. One day in October 2008, a bank customer-service representative mentioned two accounts in the name of Heart of Love. Oddly, she wasn't a signatory. "I had no knowledge of these accounts," she insists. "I couldn't close or pull any money from them. But Hubert and Daphne had access to both accounts." (White provided New Times with copies of bank account applications dated October 15, 2007, supporting her claims that the only two signatories were Daphne and Hubert Campbell.)
White says she then drove to the Campbells' office at 640 NE 149th St. "Hubert came out, and I said, 'No more,'" White recollects. "I told him I knew about the two other accounts. His face turned pale, and he started stuttering."
About a month later, White allegedly learned the Campbells had opened a group home in Plantation using Heart of Love's license. She drove to the facility and found it in disarray. "The kitchen was total filth," White grouses. "Three of the bedrooms were so grimy and dirty that I had to throw the bed sheets in the garbage. It was disgusting."
So on January 25, 2009, White dissolved Heart of Love and gave up her group home license.
That's where Rose White's friend, Nebert Whyte, comes in. The retired nurse, who lives in Lehigh Acres in Lee County, met the Campbells at the same church. Soon they went into business together. Whyte says they bought a place in Lehigh Acres that the Campbells agreed to run while paying her $4,000 a month. It was a verbal agreement.
Whyte says that at one point she agreed to let the Campbells use a stamp bearing her signature to sign payroll checks. "Since I lived in Lee County, I found it reasonable... I wouldn't have to travel back and forth so much," she says. "Until one day when I decided to look at one of the statements."
Whyte contends she discovered that her company was receiving thousands of dollars in Medicaid payments from the state. She showed New Times a copy of the company's February 2009 bank statement, which shows $30,000 from the state was transferred to a Deutsche Bank account that Whyte claims is not hers. A month later, on March 4, Whyte closed the business account with Hubert as a cosigner and opened a new one to which only she had access. "I let [Daphne Campbell] know that I thought she and her husband were cheats and liars," she says. "She said I was going to be sorry."
A week later, on March 12, Whyte received a letter from the Campbells demanding she pay $25,000 for terminating a consulting agreement. Problem is, Whyte says, she had never seen or signed such a document.
The Campbells' lawyer, Michael Etienne, declined to discuss the correspondence or any of the other claims. "These are matters that are going to be litigated," he says, "so we will not be commenting on them. But Daphne is innocent."
He also refused to speak about the Campbells' financial and legal troubles. Hubert pleaded guilty in 2007 to using a fraudulent social security number to obtain mortgages totaling $796,000 for three properties in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, as well as a $31,000 car loan. He received three years of probation and was ordered to pay a $2,000 fine.
Daphne Campbell's federal records show only a 2008 lien by the IRS against an office building she owns. The agency claimed she owed $20,000 in employee taxes.
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This past July 17, Hubert filed for bankruptcy. He claimed $423,000 in assets and $400,000 in debts. On August 20, a bank foreclosed on an eight-unit apartment building owned by Daphne Campbell and her daughter. The company claims they missed too many payments on a $225,000 mortgage.
Despite all of these problems, Campbell beat her opponent, Alix Desulme, by 367 votes this past August 24 to take the seat representing District 108. The claims were never discussed. She'll take office in November.
White and Whyte won't attend the swearing-in. The IRS claims they owe $135,000 in unpaid employee taxes. The two have no other blemishes, civil or criminal, on their records except for some overdue credit card bills that were later paid. "They got me hook, line, and sinker," Whyte grumbles.
The women have reported their claims to Wachovia's fraud department, the FBI, and state Medicaid fraud investigators but have received no response. Etters, the state spokeswoman, says investigators recently found no evidence the Campbells were operating group homes without a license. White says those investigators never contacted her. "All I wanted was to work with disabled people," she says. "The Campbells ruined it for me. I will not rest until the public knows they put the Devil in office."