OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced the sentencing of Brandon Benavente, a San Diego County caretaker for elderly and dependent persons, for sexually assaulting three elderly dependents, and stealing personal property including money, jewelry, and a handgun. In the San Diego County Superior Court, Benavente was sentenced to 14 years and four months in prison, which is one of the longest elder abuse sentences imposed in a case brought by the California Department of Justice. Benavente’s girlfriend and co-defendant Odaliz Mendez was previously sentenced on January 12 to 2 years of felony probation for her involvement in the theft scheme. As part of his sentence, Benavente will be ordered to pay restitution, which will be determined at a later date. In December 2021, Benavente pled guilty to 11 felonies relating to sexual assault, financial and elder abuse, as well as theft – Mendez also pled guilty to multiple felonies relating to her involvement in the theft scheme.
“My office will not stand for abuse of the elderly by their caretakers. The crimes that took place under the care of Brandon Benavente are unacceptable. No caretaker should expect to get away with sexually, physically, or financially abusing any senior citizen in our state,” said Attorney General Bonta. “In securing today’s sentencing, the exceptional work by both our law enforcement partners and our Division of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse shows that those who commit abuse against vulnerable elders will be held accountable for their crimes. At the California Department of Justice, we will continue to do our part to keep our loved ones safe from all forms of elder abuse.”
In May 2020, Benavente was caught on video surveillance entering the room of a resident and removing cash from the resident’s wallet, prompting an investigation by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Office. In June 2020, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Office asked the California Department of Justice’s Division of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse (DMFEA) to join their investigation against Benavente. The joint investigation found that between December 2019 and December 2020, Benavente committed multiple acts of burglary, theft, fraud, identity theft, and sexual abuse against a resident residing at Vista Village Senior Living and other victims throughout San Diego County. Benavente and Mendez stole jewelry, a handgun, and thousands of dollars from their victims.
The criminal investigation into Benavente and Mendez was conducted by the Attorney General’s DMFEA in collaboration with the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, Oceanside Police Department, San Diego Police Department, the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, and Escondido Police Department. DMFEA investigates and prosecutes those responsible for abuse, neglect, and fraud committed against elderly and dependent adults across the state. DMFEA also works to protect Californians by investigating and prosecuting those who perpetrate fraud on the Medi-Cal program. DMFEA regularly works with whistleblowers, the California Department of Health Care Services, and local law enforcement agencies in its investigations and prosecutions.
A copy of the complaint is available here.
DMFEA receives 75% of its funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under a grant award totaling $50,522,020 for federal fiscal year 2021-2022. The remaining 25% is funded by the State of California. The federal fiscal year is defined as October 1, 2021 through September 30, 2022.