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July 22, 2014

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Public health:

Good news for apartment resident plagued by bedbugs

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Sam Morris

Lawrence Cabrera’s box spring and mattress show signs of severe bedbug infestation Saturday, Aug. 27, 2011.

Updated Thursday, Sept. 1, 2011 | 4:54 p.m.

Bedbugs at Siegel Suites

Lawrence Cabrera's box spring and mattress show signs of severe bedbug infestation Saturday, Aug. 27, 2011. Launch slideshow »
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J. Patrick Coolican

Lawrence Cabrera has been complaining for months to the management of the Siegel Suites Twain II location about bedbugs.

Finally, last week he called the Southern Nevada Health District, which found “significant bedbug infestation” at his studio apartment this week, according to a document he showed me. A Sun photographer documented the obvious infestation.

Cabrera, 62, said he was injured while working for the Union Pacific Railroad a decade ago and is on federal disability. He uses a wheelchair and suffers from nerve damage and asthma.

He’s a veteran of the U.S. Army.

Once the health department official told Siegel Suites management it had 14 days to eradicate the bedbugs, Cabrera was given a to-do list before the exterminators arrive Monday. He needs to bag his belongings, sweep, dust and vacuum his unit.

But of course, he’s unable to do so because of his disability. He says the management told him it will serve an eviction notice if he doesn’t do what’s required.

His family is in Colorado; he has a woman who comes by once per month to deliver groceries. Cabrera said that since he moved to Siegel Suites in February 2010, the ceiling of his bathroom collapsed, and he endured a break-in attempt while he was in the unit.

His rent is $650 per month.

When I alerted the health department about the threat of eviction, a spokeswoman said that on Monday morning she would be contacting Elder Protective Services and Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada.

Some background on bedbugs: As the Sun noted in 2008, they were mostly eradicated by the chemical agent DDT after World War II, but began to surface again in the late 1990s and are now thriving. They are six-legged, reddish-brown insects that are nocturnal, feasting on as much as three times their weight in a single human “blood meal.” They are famously difficult to exterminate, hiding in the tiniest crevices and surviving all manner of chemical agents. They are also highly mobile, so it’s possible they aren’t isolated in Cabrera’s unit.

I went to the Siegel Suites office to speak to a manager Saturday to ask if this is an appropriate way to treat someone, especially a disabled veteran, but the manager was not in.

I left a message, and will update you when they get back to me.

Update: I’ve been in contact with a manager from Siegel Suites, and the eviction notice is going to be delayed while we get Cabrera some help.

Meanwhile, a few readers have come forward to volunteer. Joe Restifo, who specializes in bedbug eradication and was profiled in the Las Vegas Sun in 2009, has offered to prepare the apartment for eradication, and if need be, to do the eradication himself or enlist the help of other companies if that’s required. Thank you to Siegel Suites for reconsidering the fate of Cabrera, and a bigger thank you to Restifo and readers who have offered to help.

Update: A Siegel Suites executive called Monday and said they had contacted Jewish Family Services Agency to get Cabrera help, but that Cabrera refused their assistance. They also noted that they had offered to move Cabrera to their location on Boulder Highway so he could be in a more handicap-accessible unit and said they would have paid for his moving expenses, but he refused.

Cabrera says Jewish Family Services never came to his apartment. Of the offer to move him, Cabrera said he was reluctant because his current location is less than a block from both a grocery store and his bank. On Boulder Highway, he would have been far from both.

Siegel Suites said Cabrera had refused entry to the company’s designated exterminator.

Cabrera told me they did spray once, but the situation only worsened. In point of fact, the bed needs to be hermetically sealed and disposed of, and the entire unit needs significant eradication.

Having spent considerable time with Cabrera, I’m sure he can be stubborn and is not the easiest person to help because he fears being taken advantage of and losing control over his situation, which is quite understandable for a man now disabled who once did physical tasks for the Army and a railroad.

As the original column noted, we left a message for Siegel Suites Saturday. Ordinarily, we wouldn’t run something without first speaking to them, but the situation was urgent: Cabrera faced an eviction notice Monday morning, and we thought it was important to get the word out and get Cabrera some help, so it ran without input from Siegel Suites. We stand by that decision.

As of now, a legal nonprofit and the health department are working to resolve the issue. As noted, we’ve received generous offers of help from several people in the community. I’ll be writing in the coming weeks about the entire situation as it is resolved and Cabrera is living in a bedbug-free domicile.

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  1. Mr. Coolican: If I can assist Mr. Cabrera in any way to move his belongings please contact me through my account with the Sun. I would be honored to help.

  2. A multi-millionaire slum lord and his legion of "apartment manager" lackeys ganging up on the most vulnerable victims in society, not exactly news but definitely news worthy.

    Mr. Coolican you are a true champion of decency and justice. Kudos to you sir.

  3. Thanks for offers of help. I'm going to try to organize a help team earlyish tomorrow. Email me if u can help.

  4. 700 Las Vegas Blvd, Seigel Suites has bed bug problem, too. My mentally incapacitated friend lives there. You can see the bites on her back and legs. Becuase she is partially retarded she can't drive. Therefore, she cant move.

  5. bbtbrain

    What a good person you are. But remember: all of Mr. Cabrera's belongings may very well be infested, too. You will have to look carefully at everything, especially things he needs to take with him, such as clothes. The clothes should be bagged and then washed in very hot water. He may have to get rid of some things or else he will just be taking the bugs with him. All the bedding should just be tossed.

    With so many people struggling these days, and for people like Mr. Cabrera and Lucy's friend, that is why places like the Salvation Army and GOodwill stores are so popular. One should ALWAYS wash anything purchased at these places before using them. Keep them bagged up until they can be washed. Buying furniture at these places is a crap shoot. At my apt complex now, we are not allowed to purchase certain things like mattresses and couches. A word to the wise: always check anything and everything.

    As a footnote: Mr. Cabrera only has someone come in once a month with groceries? Are there not any agencies that could provide him with more help than that in Nevada? Either a federally funded program or a State funded program for the elderly and disabled? This is something that should be checked into.

    Lucy: DOes your friend have help come in?

  6. There has got to be "the rest of the story". Even neighbors in a complex like this will help. I know, I have been there, done that. Tenants refuse to leave for a few hours for spraying, or even refuse to let people in to change the air filters. Before this bed bug infestation, people carried roaches with them. If you read up, you find that it takes several thousand dollars to get a handle on this problem. It takes full cooperation from all to get it handled. No property owner wants this, and experience also tells me that "meals on wheels" will deliver food, this man probably has every gaming membership. Why wouldn't this person chose to live closer to family?

  7. "Some background on bedbugs: As the Sun noted in 2008, they were mostly eradicated by the chemical agent DDT after World War II, but began to surface again in the late 1990s and are now thriving."

    That isn't all that is thriving these days; illegal immigrants are carrying infectious diseases into our country daily and nothing is being done to curb their infestation that they carry with them when they enter our country illegally.

    It is sad that Americans are forced to deal infectious diseases and bugs that were eradicated years ago but what can one expect with open border policies and zero enforcement thereafter America has. We'll be dealing with all kinds of aliments as a result of this and there is nothing being done except throwing more money at problems that will never be fixed until the borders are closed and illegals are forced to enter America legally.

  8. Baffling comments, as usual. This story has literally nothing to do with immigration. That's not why there's a bedbug infestation. There's some "sick repugnant immoral" folks around, but the commenter is looking in the wrong place.

  9. Note the update above. Thanks to Joe Restifo, a bedbug specialist, for offering to help out. And Siegel Suites has reconsidered.

  10. "...illegal immigrants are carrying infectious diseases into our country daily and nothing is being done to curb their infestation that they carry with them when they enter our country illegally."

    its2hot -- it's one thing to be an ignorant bigot. It's quite another to brag about it, as your suggestion of bedbugs' origin does. Try educating yourself starting @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bedbug#Hist... -- they've been with humanity for thousands of years, the speculation is they first came to this country from Europe, and the "herbs and seeds of cannabis" is one traditional method of repelling or killing them.

    "A stupid man's report of what a clever man says is never accurate because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand." -- Bertrand Arthur William Russell (1872-1970), "A History of Western Philosophy"