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Unlicensed group home owner imprisoned after resident fatally injured in fire

Attorney General Aaron Ford announced the sentencing of a 41-year-old Las Vegas woman who operated an unlicensed group home that caught fire while she was absent and trapped a resident inside who later died as a result of her injuries.

Shawna Virginia Cuff was sentenced Wednesday and found guilty of attempted neglect for allowing a vulnerable person to suffer “unjustifiable pain or suffering,” the attorney general’s office said in a statement.

During a fire in 2021, one of the vulnerable residents in Cuff’s care was trapped in a closet that had been altered without proper permits, the attorney general’s office said. The room had no windows and had no means of escape. The resident sustained second-degree burns, and she ultimately died as a result of her injuries, the attorney general’s office said.

An investigation from the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit found that Cuff rented out a closet to the vulnerable person, knowing that she was unable to care for herself, the attorney general’s office said.

The group home had no fire extinguishers nor an evacuation plan, fire sprinkler system, emergency lighting or exit signage, the attorney general’s office said.

“The State of Nevada requires facilities like this to be licensed and for qualified caregivers to be present whenever residents are in the facility,” Ford said in a statement Thursday. “These laws are designed to protect individuals from unfortunate tragedies like the one here resulting from this fire.”

Judge Michael Villani found Cuff guilty of attempted neglect of a vulnerable person and sentenced her to 12 to 30 months in the Nevada Department of Corrections. Cuff was also ordered to pay more than $30,000 in costs and penalties.

“Like Judge Villani, we are appalled at the facts of this case, but we are pleased with the fair and just sentence,” Ford said in the statement. “My office continues to vigorously investigate and prosecute individuals who assume responsibility for the elderly and vulnerable for their abusive and neglectful conduct.”

Contact Jessica Hill at jehill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @jess_hillyeah on X.

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