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.
Jury A found respiratory specialist Kelthie Joseph guilty of Criminally Negligent Homicide, a class E felony, for causing the death of Aurelia Rios; Willful Violation of Public Health Laws, a class A misdemeanor, for failing to immediately report that Rios’ death was the result of neglect as required by the New York State Public Health Law; and was sentenced to nine months in jail with three years of probation. A statement by Joseph was submitted into evidence that she did not read the doctor’s orders stating that Rios must be on a ventilator while asleep and video camera surveillance showed Joseph walking past Rios’ room twice while the alarms were going off, failing to intervene.
Registered nurses Marianne Fassino and Kimberly Lappe ignored Rios’ audible and visual alarms of respiratory failure for two hours and cardiac alarms and messages to their pagers after Rios stopped breathing. Video surveillance showed that Fassino and Lappe were near several computer monitors displaying that Rios was in respiratory distress. Victoria Caldwell, a licensed practical nurse, falsely claimed that Rios was alive when she responded to her respiratory alarms in her nursing notes and statements to investigators. Christine Boylan, a licensed respiratory therapist and Medford Multicare’s former Director of Respiratory Therapy, was discovered to have hidden relevant computer records from a Department of Health investigator. Boylan attempted to conceal records, which described the nursing home staff’s neglect and failure to respond to Rios’ respiratory and cardiac alarms.
Jury B held Fassino guilty of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, a class E felony, one count of Endangering the Welfare of an Incompetent or Physically Disabled Person, a class A misdemeanor, and two counts of Willful Violation of Health Laws and was sentenced to six months in jail and five years of probation. Lappe was found guilty of two counts of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, Endangering the Welfare of an Incompetent or Physically Disabled Person and two counts of Willful Violation of Health Laws and was sentenced to nine months in jail and five years of probation. The jury found Boylan guilty of two counts of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree and one count of Willful Violation of Health Laws and was sentenced to six months in jail and five years of probation. Caldwell was found to be guilty of four counts of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree and one count of Willful Violation of Health Laws and was sentenced to forty-five days in jail and five years of probation.
In October 2015, three former Medford Mulitcare aides, Patricia DiGiovanni, Christina Corelli, and Leona Gordon were sentenced after they pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges as a result of the circumstances surrounding Rios’ death. The defendants also had to forfeit their CNA certificates and were each sentenced to three years of probation on the condition that they cannot be employed taking care of any incompetent person. DiGiovanni’s sentence also required her to perform 840 hours of community service.
Attorney General Schneiderman stated that nursing home staff members have a responsibility and duty to care for their patients. The convicted nurses and respiratory therapists neglected the victim and attempted to cover-up the truth behind her death. A.G. Schneiderman further stated that his office will continue to prosecute those who neglect and abuse the elderly.
The New York State Office of the Attorney General also filed a civil lawsuit separately, charging Medford Multicare’s owners with corporate fraud and looting, due to a history of their employees’ criminal conduct. Medford Multicare profited greatly from Medicaid funds, but has a long history of neglecting their residents. Eighteen of Medford Multicare’s licensed and certified employees have been prosecuted for neglect and fraud in attempts to cover up instances of neglect and abuse since 2008. The Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) conducted a hidden camera investigation, which led to six of the eighteen convictions.