Sex offender's assisted living home received citation in June - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Sex offender's assisted living home received citation in June

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By David Gotfredson

SAN DIEGO, Calif. (CBS 8) -- A state licensing agency has launched an investigation into a Lakeside assisted living home where a convicted sex offender was living when he allegedly fondled two boys.

News 8 has learned the Expanding Horizons residential facility has a history of safety violations with the Community Care Licensing Division of the California Department of Social Services.

Nobody answered the door at the Expanding Horizons home at 8820 Golden Ridge Rd. in Lakeside when News 8 came knocking Friday.

It's the same home where 55-year-old Joseph Cantorna was living when he allegedly wandered off the property September 12 and began sexually touching two young boys on bicycles.

State licensing records obtained by News 8 show inspectors visited the Expanding Horizons home in Lakeside in the days following the recent incident involving Cantorna. Investigators are reviewing Cantorna's individual program plan filed with the facility to see if any violations in supervision occurred, a licensing official told News 8.

Neighbors had no idea a mentally disordered sex offender was living in the home.

Cantorna was listed on the California Megan's Law web site under the 92040 zip code, but because his past sex crimes were pleaded down to misdemeanors his address, by law, was not included on the site.

"Thankfully the victims were not dragged off into the bushes like other stories," said neighbor Kent Kopperud. "But it's still a horrible situation, and it should have never happened."

The licensing records also reveal the Lakeside home has a history safety violations, including failing to report criminal activity by clients. The incidents include a "non report of a major fight, cigarette burning of a resident and the arrest of another," according to a June 16, 2010 citation issued by the Community Care Licensing agency.

A licensing programming analyst with the agency wrote up the following deficiencies in the citation:

- The facility failed to provide adequate care and supervision…

- Facility failed to provide adequate observation of each client for changes in physical, mental, emotional and social functioning.

- The serious nature of these citations show that the facility administration needs to address and handle these problems.

News 8 was unable to reach Expanding Horizons president, San Diego psychologist Steve Lefort, at a second adult residential facility he operates at 9281 Rock Acre Drive in Lakeside.

Nobody answered the door at a third assisted living home Lefort operates at 1450 Bermuda Lane in El Cajon.

The Megan's Law web site shows another child molester living at the Bermuda Lane home: 41-year-old Norman Manela. Neighbors told News 8 they have seen police respond to the El Cajon home in recent years.

Dr. Lefort did not return multiple phone messages left at his home in University Heights.

Internal Revenue Service tax records show Lefort operates all three residential facilities under the umbrella of a tax exempt, non-profit corporation called Expanding Horizons Developmental Disability Services.

In 2009, Lefort paid himself a $166,000 salary as president of the non-profit, according to the records.

Since he owns all three homes, Lefort collected rent last year from the non-profit to the tune of $97,000, the IRS forms show.

The question is, who's paying the bill to house developmentally disabled sex offenders in residential neighborhoods where nobody seems to want them?

"We deal with some people that nobody wants. That's a true statement," said Carlos Flores, executive director of the San Diego Regional Center.  The agency contracts with the state of California to place and treat developmentally disabled individuals.

The state-funded, non-profit agency placed sex offender Joseph Cantorna in the Lakeside home years ago. Cantorna has been a client of the Regional Center since 1973, court records confirm.

The cost to taxpayers would be about $4,000 per month, according to Flores. The facility in Lakeside is licensed for six residential clients. That totals $24,000 per month for the operator of the home at full occupancy, Flores said.

However, "they also have expenses because they have to hire staff," Flores said. "The higher the level the more staff they have to provide services."

Flores said the Expanding Horizons residential facility in Lakeside operates at a service level 4G, defined on the Department of Social Services web site as:

SERVICE LEVEL 4:  Care, supervision, and professionally supervised training for persons with deficits in self-help skills, and/or severe impairment in physical coordination and mobility, and/or severely disruptive or self-injurious behavior. Service Level 4 is subdivided into Levels 4A through 4I, in which staffing levels are increased to correspond to the escalating severity of disability levels.

A description of services filed by Expanding Horizons with its 1994 license application states, "Expanding Horizons anticipates accepting clients who have been involved with the criminal justice system" as well as those with a history of "inappropriate sexual behavior." The document also lists "continuous observation and supervision" of clients under the heading of "Basic Services."

Cantorna has a long criminal history of molesting children dating back to 1973. Court records show he's been committed to state mental hospitals on several occasions.

In May 2002, he was released from the legal guardianship of the Public Conservator of the County of San Diego, court records confirmed. It's unclear from the records the exact date his conservatorship began with the county. A county spokesperson did not respond to an email requesting clarification of the dates.

Under state law, developmentally disabled patients must be placed in the least restrictive residential or institutional setting.

"We need to do the best we can with what we've got and I need a court (ordered) commitment to put anybody away," Flores said.

"The (residential) institutions that we use, they're not used to lock people away for the rest of their lives," he said. "They're used for treatment, rehabilitation, and competency training."

The San Diego Regional Center currently has 19,000 developmentally disabled clients placed in San Diego and Imperial counties. Public safety is a top priority, Flores said. Twenty-four of those clients are sex offenders.

Cantorna has pleaded not guilty to four felony counts of committing lewd acts on the two boys. He faces 25 years to life if convicted.

The content of this web page has been updated since its original posting.

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