A nursery owner has been accused of hiding 26 children behind a fake wall in her home.
Carla Faith, 58, was arrested after police were called to reports of overcrowding at the Play Mountain Place nursery, which she ran from her home in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Faith has been charged with two counts of reckless child abuse without injury and another count of trying to influence a public servant, according to El Paso County court records.
Three of her employees – Katelynne Nelson, 31, Valerie Fresquez, 24, and Christina Swauger, 35 – were also arrested.
Police visited Faith’s property last month after receiving complaints the nursery was housing more children than its licence allowed.
The nursery owner had told a human services worker on the same day that no children were under her care at the time, according to an arrest warrant affidavit obtained by The Gazette newspaper.
Faith also told officers there was no basement downstairs and the children were playing at a park.
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But a mother had reported leaving her child there and when police arrived at Faith’s home, they could hear the noises of children downstairs.
The officers discovered a fake wall in the basement and found two adults and the 26 children, all under three years old.
Most of the children were sweating, visibly dehydrated and had wet or soiled nappies, according to KKTV 11 News.
It was not suggested by police that anyone was held against their will.
Play Mountain Place had been authorised to care for six children but its licence has now been suspended.
The arrests were made following a six-week investigation by the city police department’s Crimes Against Children Unit.
Faith has posted bond and will appear in court on 2 January.
Swauger was arrested on the same charges as Faith, while Fresquez faces a possible misdemeanour child abuse count.
Nelson was charged with drug possession and misdemeanour child abuse.