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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Josephine Cruz, Finance Clerk at Kings Harbor Multi-Care Center in the Bronx – Cruz was responsible for funds received from Medicaid to residents for spending money and tracking how much each resident requested on a worksheet. Prosecutors allege Cruz changed the worksheet to reflect residents asking for more money than they really did and kept the difference; she stole $2,160 from residents over the course of one year. She was arraigned in New York City Criminal Court – Bronx County and charged with Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree and Petit Larceny.
- Channel Francis, Staff Member at Parker Jewish Institute for Health Care and Rehabilitation in Queens – Allegedly obtained personal identification information of three elderly residents and opened credit and charge accounts in their names, using the fraudulent accounts to pay her personal bills and purchase luxury items for thousands of dollars, such as handbags and electronics. She was arraigned in New York City Criminal Court – Queens County and charged with two counts of Identity Theft in the First Degree and Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree.
- Nathalie Germain, Certified Nurse Aide at Mary Manning Walsh Nursing Home n Manhattan – Germain used her position to acquire personal identifying information from residents in order to pay personal expenses and make purchases. Over the summer of 2014 she stole $6,500 from four residents and attempted to steal an additional $4,500. She used resident’s limited funds and good credit to pay her own bills, make a car loan payment, attempt to pay her Con Edison bill and purchase personal items. She was arraigned in New York City Criminal Court – New York County and charged with Identity Theft in the First Degree, Identity Theft in the Second Degree, Attempted Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, and four counts of Endangering the Welfare of an Incompetent or Physically Disabled Person in the First Degree.
- Jason Battaglia, Staff Member at Gurwin Jewish Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Commack – On June 13, 2016 Battaglia allegedly stole two necklaces off a 95 year old female resident’s neck (one gold and one silver) who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. He replaced the silver necklace on the resident’s neck and left the room with the gold necklace; he later returned the necklace to a registered nurse claiming he found it but later told police he stole it. He was arrested on the day of the theft and charged with Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance after being found with nine hypodermic needles and a spoon containing heroin residue. He was further charged with Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Fifth Degree, and Willful Violation of Health Laws and arraigned in Suffolk County District Court.
There are over 100,000 people residing in long term care facilities in New York State receiving medical care and other services depending on their needs for assistance with the tasks of daily living. The State spends over $3.7 billion annually on this type of care. Residents of long term care facilities are often vulnerable and exploited due to their physical, emotional and mental condition. Studies estimate the elderly lose billions of dollars in personal wealth nationally each year due to financial fraud. One study estimated 13% of elderly Americans have been victims of financial fraud, including identity theft.
Gallivan & Gallivan is a law firm dedicated to holding nursing homes accountable for abuse. If you or a loved one has experienced abuse in a nursing home, please contact the aggressive and experienced nursing home abuse attorneys at Gallivan & Gallivan.