Articles Posted in Falsifying Records

On October 18, 2016, six individuals were arrested in New York for  exploiting the financial vulnerability of nursing home residents; defendants are from Bronx, New York, Queens and Suffolk Counties. The five New York City defendants stole personal identity information from residents in order to secure cash or credit they were not entitled to; and the defendant from Suffolk County stole a necklace from a 95 year old female resident. Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman stated it is “reprehensible for caregivers to steal from defenseless residents in order to line their own pockets.” He continued to say his office will not tolerate financial exploitation and will vigilantly work to ensure nursing home resident’s personal and financial information is protected.  The six cases are summarized below:

  1. Diana English, Director of Social Services at Far Rockaway Nursing Home in Queens – Allegedly removed an elderly resident from the home and took him to his bank to withdraw money without the required medical clearance on June 24, 2015. The resident withdrew $500 from his account and gave it to the director; this occurred several times. The resident passed away the following month; English accessed his account with his PIN number and stole $1,200 from his account. The resident suffered from an anxiety disorder, physical issues due to hip replacement surgery, short and long term memory deficits , cognitive deficits and was unable to care for himself. She was arraigned in New York City Criminal Court – Queens County and is being charged with Endangering the Welfare of an Incompetent or Physically Disabled Person in the First Degree, Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, and Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree.
  2. Sandra Rivera-Tapia, Director of Social Work at Holliswood Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare in Queens – Allegedly obtained a resident’s ATM card and PIN number and stole $7,418 from the account. The money was acquired by making several cash withdrawals from various ATM’s in her neighborhood and throughout New York City, as well as store purchases on the card. The resident suffered from schizoaffective disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, sublaxation of the right hip, chronic kidney disease, diabetes and hypertension and was unable to care for himself. She was arraigned in New York City Criminal Court – Queens county and charged with two counts of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, Endangering the Welfare of an Incompetent or Physically Disabled Person in the First Degree, and Unlawful Possession of Personal Identification Information in the Third Degree.

A Nursing Home Aide in Cortland, NY has pleaded guilty to stealing a credit card from one of the patients under her care. Hope Pearson, a Certified Nurse Aide at the Crown Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation on Kellogg Road in Cortland, pleaded guilty to criminal possession of stolen property in the fourth degree, a felony. Pearson, and codefendant, Schenekqua Carter activated the resident’s credit/debit card and illegally charged over $5,000 on the card after checking it’s available balance. The women used the card at multiple locations including a casino and numerous different stores and ATM’s.courthouse

Pearson’s sentencing is scheduled for October 4, 2016. Carter entered a similar plea and was previously sentenced to five years of probation and ordered to pay restitution. The state Attorney General’s Office prosecuted the case. Nursing home residents are amongst our state’s most vulnerable citizens, and they deserve to be treated with the utmost respect and dignity by those in charge of their care. For a certified nurse aide to steal from someone whose wellbeing is their primary responsibility is reprehensible. Nursing home professionals who seek to profit by stealing from defenseless residents will be held accountable,” said NYS Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

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On January 4, 2016 Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced several guilty pleas in connection with  allegations against Mohawk Valley Health Care Center (MVNH) for falsifying business records and covering up nursing home resident abuse and neglect. In a separate civil settlement, MVNH Associates, LLC also agreed to pay a $1,000,000 fine to Medicaid for accepting overpayments from the program. The company will also be required to hire an independent monitor to implement reform and divest ownership of the two convicted defendants and a related investor.

The indictment included details of two incidents that occurred in May 2013 and the alleged cover up of those incidents. The first incident included a medication error that went unnoticed for several days and was then covered up.  The second incident involved a resident with dementia who took part in unlawful sexual conduct with another resident. MVNH’s guilty plea resolved these issues, which initially were part of a 45 count indictment. The plea involved admitting to adding an employee’s name to a staffing sheet who was not working. MVNH also had to pay a $5,000 fine. Two owners of the facility, a former administrator and director of nursing, pled guilty to separate charges. Continue reading

A Registered Nurse (RN) at St. Ann’s Community Home in Rochester, New York recently entered a plea of guilty in a criminal court case involving neglect of an elderly resident. RN Christine Deisenroth was prosecuted by the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of the New York State Attorney General’s Office. AG Eric T. Schneiderman charged the nurse with Falsifying Business Records, a Class A Misdemeanor under the Penal Law.  Deisenroth failed to administer the medication Lovenox, a blood thinning medication, to a resident on numerous occasions.  Despite orders directing her to provide the medication she allegedly failed to do so, then covered up the failure by charting in the resident’s medical records the administration of the medication.

Charting is very important in the nursing home environment.  It provides a written account for the staff to refer when caring for a patient.  As an integral part of what is referred to as the “continuity of care”, the integrity of the chart allows for seamless transition between shifts when performed properly.

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Two employees at Beechwood Homes, an Amherst, NY nursing home, were recently convicted for crimes committed while they were supposed to be caring for residents.  Kimberly Fay, a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), was convicted for stealing hydrocone.  Ms. Fay falsely documented discarding tablets of hydrocone in part of a residents’ chart.  Instead of discarding the narcotics, she took them for personal use.

Onjelque Harris, a certified nurse’s aide (CNA), failed to toilet a resident.  She then falsely documented she did provide the toileting care.  As a result of the resident not being toileted, she was found covered in feces with blistered skin.

Many of the cases our firm handles involve falls and fractures suffered by residents of New York nursing homes.  The causes of the falls range from the staff’s failure to answer a resident’s call bell, to failing to properly assess a resident for his/her need to be toileted, to failing to order the use of alarms in the bed or wheelchair, to failing to have enough staff.  While not all falls are preventable, we believe nursing homes should be held accountable in instances where the appropriate nursing practices are not carried out.

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An investigation conducted by Attorney General Schneiderman’s office resulted in the arrest of nine nurses in connection with the death and attempted cover up of the death of Aurelia Rios, a 72 year old nursing home resident at Medford Multicare Center for Living in 2012. A dual-jury trial took place in July 2015 in Suffolk County Court.

Rios, a retired dental assistant and mother of three, was sent to Medford Multicare Center for six weeks of temporary rehab to treat pneumonia.  On October 26, 2012 Rios’ ventilator became disconnected, which she depended on to breathe while asleep. The alarm signal on the ventilator was ignored by nurses, therapists, and aids for a period of two hours, resulting in her death shortly after. The incident was reported a few days after Rios’s death by an off-duty employee who was surprised by Rios’s death. Continue reading

Linda Masse, a Licensed Practical Nurse, pled guilty in Schenectady County Court to one count of Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree, a Class D Felony, with a sentence of felony drug court.  Masse also agreed to surrender her nurse practitioners license.

Linda Masse was a licensed practical nurse at Women’s Health Care Associates in Latham, New York for a physician who specialized in obstetrics and gynecology.  It was revealed that from March 2014 to approximately April 2015, Linda Masse used eighteen forged prescriptions from her employer’s medical practice in order to obtain hydrocodone and oxycodone from various pharmacies, including Walmart and CVS. For each prescription, Masse would obtain large amounts of narcotics- varying from 40 to 180 pills.pills8 Hydrocodone and oxycodone are Schedule II controlled substances meaning that the drugs have a high potential for abuse, therefore restricting the use of those drugs. Masse obtained over 2,000 pills of hydrocodone and oxycodone, which were paid for by Medicaid. Masse committed Medicaid fraud by unlawfully issuing prescriptions in her name and forging a physician’s signature. Continue reading

handcuffs2.jpgThe Honorable Gerald P. Sharlow of the Massena Village Court sentenced Wendy Vice, the former business manager at the Highland Nursing Home in Massena, New York to three years’ probation in March 2014 for stealing $18,000 from residents’ accounts. Vice will also be required to attend counseling for a gambling problem as part of her sentence. On September 25, 2013, Vice pled guilty to petit larceny.

According to the Attorney General’s office, Vice worked as the business manager at the Highland Nursing Home and was responsible for overseeing the Resident Trust Account that is used by patients to keep small amounts of cash for safekeeping. However, from 2011 to 2012, Vice stole money from the account by making false entries into record books and forging patients’ names on receipts. When officials at Highland discovered that money was missing from the account, Vice admitted to her wrongdoing. She has since repaid the facility over $10,000. Highland reimbursed residents who had money stolen.

Commenting on Vice’s guilty plea, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman stated, “Nursing home residents entrust a great deal of control of their lives–physically, financially and emotionally–to the staff members of these facilities, who are obligated to honor that trust. Highland Nursing Home detected the crime, reported it and recovered the losses; but I encourage all nursing homes and other residential facilities to maintain safeguards to prevent such thefts. My office will keep fighting to ensure that those who take advantage of vulnerable nursing home residents will be held accountable.”

VNSNY Choice, a division of the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, agreed in October 2013 in principle to pay back Medicaid $33.6 million for enrolling patients into its program who were ineligible. VNSNY Choice is New York’s largest managed long-term care agency. According to New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, the settlement was reached after his Medicaid fraud control unit conducted an audit and investigation of the company. VNSNY Choice admitted to enrolling ineligible members into its long-term care program. However, as part of the settlement, the state will allow the company to resume enrolling patients into its centers.

VNSNY Choice receives approximately $3,800 per month from Medicaid for each person it enrolls in its long-term plan. The money is used to pay for a network of providers, including social day care, home health aides, and care in nursing homes. The plans and centers work in conjunction with each other. The centers enroll patients to be signed up by the plans, and the plans pay the centers.

VNSNY Choice came under scrutiny after articles and photographs in The New York Times documented healthy older adults playing table tennis at a center in Lower Manhattan. In another instance, the Times reported people bicycling away with free food from a center in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. The Times even reported that some centers were offering cash gifts and casino trips to healthy seniors as an incentive for them to enroll in their centers. Such centers are supposed to be for frail elderly people and the disabled. There are currently 54 social adult day care centers and seven managed long-term care plans that are being reviewed.

In March, we wrote about the arrest of two Certified Nurse Aides from Tarrytown Hall Center after an incident in February 2012. Going against protocol, one of the aides, Maureen Flowers, attempted to lift the elderly resident from her wheelchair without the assistance of another staff member. Flowers dropped the resident, resulting in a fractured spine and leg. Rather than immediately alerting medical personnel of the accident, Flowers attempted to cover up the incident by asking another aide to say that she had assisted in the transfer. The resident was taken to the hospital, where she passed away approximately two hours later.

Flowers was initially charged with endangering a vulnerable elderly person, as well as attempting to conceal the accident. Last week those charges were upgraded to manslaughter. To convict Flowers of manslaughter in the second degree, the state will have to prove that she recklessly caused the death of the senior involved in this incident. As a class C felony, manslaughter in the second degree carries a maximum sentence of fifteen years in prison.

cuffs.jpgNew York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has been outspoken in the past regarding the severity with which he views cases of nursing home abuse. Clearly this case is no different. In a statement, Schneiderman said, “The egregious lack of care afforded this frail resident warrants the serious charges against this aide. It is my office’s duty and obligation to investigate and prosecute those that place our seniors at risk.” In cases of negligence, a nursing home must be held responsible for harm and damages inflicted upon its vulnerable residents. It is good to know that in more severe cases such as this that rise to the level of criminality the Attorney General’s office is willing to pursue charges and prosecute the individual offenders to the fullest extent of the law.

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