AG Schneiderman Announces Arrests of Suffolk County Nursing Home Employees & Lawsuit Against Home's Owners Alleging Pattern of Neglect

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Employee negligence caused the death of a 72 year-old female resident and severe injuries to another resident.

New York, NY - February 11, 2014 - Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the arrests of nine employees of the Medford Multicare Center for Living, Inc. in Medford, New York. Seven of the arrests are in connection with the 2012 death of a 72-year-old resident who was at the facility for what was supposed to be temporary rehabilitation. The corporation operating the home and the facility’s top administrator were also charged with trying to cover up the circumstances surrounding the death. The Attorney General separately filed a civil lawsuit today charging the home’s owners with fraud, based on a long history of criminal conduct by employees of the home, and corporate looting. 
 
“Nursing home residents are among our state’s most vulnerable citizens,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Today’s arrests and lawsuit send a message that we will not tolerate anyone being neglected or denied life-saving medical treatment while individuals line their own pockets with tens of millions of dollars that Medicaid intended to provide resident care. We must and will do everything in our power to protect our vulnerable nursing home residents from being preyed upon by those who are entrusted with their care, yet fail to fulfill their duties to provide necessary care.”
 
The felony complaint charges Kethlie Joseph, 61, of Brentwood, with Criminally Negligent Homicide for the death of a 72-year-old resident who was residing at Medford Multicare Center. Joseph, a licensed professional trained in administering treatment to ventilator-dependent residents, admitted to never reading a doctor’s orders requiring the resident to be connected to a ventilator machine at night. As a result, the resident was not connected to the ventilator when she went to sleep, and she died that night. Joseph not only ignored alarms for more than two hours, but also ignored messages to her pager when the resident stopped breathing. Furthermore, video surveillance captured Joseph walking toward her office and not reappearing until hours later. Only after an unassigned nurse’s aide finally went to check on the resident did she receive medical attention, but by then, she had likely been dead for some time.
 
Four additional licensed employees of the nursing staff were also charged in connection with the resident’s death. They are:
  • Kimberly Lappe, 31, of Medford, a registered nurse who also failed to respond to the visual and audio alarms for almost two hours despite being inches away from the monitors. Despite video evidence to the contrary, Lappe also falsely claimed in notes written a day after the incident that nurses had responded to the alarms and that the resident was in stable condition.
  • Victoria Caldwell, 50, of Medford, a licensed practical nurse who claimed to investigators that the resident was alive and “looked up at me” when in fact the resident had likely been dead for some time. 
  • Christina Corelli, 37, of East Patchogue, an aide who falsely claimed that the resident’s respiratory alarms were not beeping and that the resident was breathing normally when records show that the alarm system had been activated for the entire time Corelli was in the room with the resident.
  • Patricia DiGiovanni, 62, of Port Jefferson, an aide who was assigned to sit at the resident’s bedside but did not respond to alarms ringing at the resident’s bedside.
Medford Multicare Center’s licensed administrator, David Fielding, 56, of West Lido Beach, and its director of respiratory therapy, Christine Boylan, 49, of Mastic, were also arrested and charged with concealing computer records documenting the alarms that signified the resident’s distress from the NYS Department of Health (DOH) during the course of its investigation, in an attempt to cover up the incident. An anonymous Medford whistleblower later informed authorities of the circumstances.
 
In addition to these seven employees charged in connection with the death of the resident and the cover up of the circumstances surrounding it, other employees were arrested today for their roles in separate incidents. Yolanda Monsalvo, 47, of Nesconset and Catherine Reyes, 49, of Ridge, were both charged with Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree and Willful Violation of the Health Laws for neglecting other residents and providing false statements to conceal the neglect. A resident with dementia in Monsalvo’s care sustained a traumatic head injury and a broken arm when Monsalvo left the building instead of monitoring the resident; a resident assigned to Reyes’s care was utterly neglected by Reyes to the point that he was found in deplorable and dangerously unsanitary conditions.
 
All the criminal charges brought today are merely accusations, and defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
 
In a civil suit filed separately today against the owners of the Medford Multicare Center, Attorney General Schneiderman detailed an extensive pattern of resident neglect and systematic corporate looting. Since 2008, an additional 17 licensed and certified employees of the Medford facility have been convicted of neglect and the falsification of records in an attempt to cover up abuse and neglect. Six of the 17 convictions arose out of hidden camera investigations conducted by the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.
 
The civil complaint details how Medford’s owners lined their pockets with millions in Medicaid funds while turning a blind eye to suffering caused by the persistent neglect of the home’s residents by senior management and staff. Since opening Medford in 2003, the owners systemically looted the facility by paying themselves at least $60 million, representing 22% of the Medicaid funding they received in that time. In the same 10-year period:
  • 17 nurses and aides pled guilty to neglect and falsifying records;
  • the New York State Department of Health cited the nursing home with 130 violations of state regulations designed to ensure adequate care to nursing home residents. In two of those instances, DOH found that the home placed its residents in “immediate jeopardy” of “serious injury, harm, impairment and death;” and
  • 5,000 incidents and accidents occurred at the facility since 2008, averaging 20 per week; only 60 of the 5,000 were reported to the New York State Department of Health as required by law. 
The Attorney General’s civil suit also describes how, rather than investing in better staffing and improved supervision to remedy the longstanding history of neglect and dangerously inadequate care, the home’s owners slashed salaries and supplies. Meanwhile, they regularly paid themselves nearly as much in salary as they paid to all 400-plus employees combined. The complaint alleges that the owners failed in their obligations to ensure proper care for residents and siphoned millions of Medicaid dollars intended to provide necessary care and improve residents’ quality of life.
 
The Attorney General would like to thank the New York State Department of Health for referring these matters to the Office and for its assistance in conducting the investigations. The Attorney General would also like to thank the New York State Police for its assistance in processing the arrests of the defendants.
 
The cases were investigated by Senior Special Investigator Dawn Scandaliato, Senior Special Investigator Regina Hogan and Special Investigator Jessica Toritto, under the supervision of Supervising Special Investigator Greg Muroff and MFCU Deputy Chief Investigator Kenneth Morgan, and Karen Patterson, RN, Confidential Medical Analyst and Pedro Villegas, Confidential Systems Analyst. Forensic audit work was performed by Milan Shah, Associate Special Auditor, Joanna-Joy Volo, Associate Special Auditor Investigator, and Theresa White, Supervising Auditor, under the supervision of Michael LaCasse, Chief Auditor for Civil Enforcement.
 
The criminal and civil investigations were conducted by Special Assistant Attorneys General Veronica Bindrim-MacDevitt and Sally G. Blinken, under the supervision of Jane Zwirn-Turkin, Deputy Regional Director of the Hauppauge Regional Office, Thomas O’Hanlon, Chief of Criminal Investigations-Downstate, Assistant Deputy Attorney General Paul J. Mahoney, Acting Director Amy Held and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Kelly Donovan.
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