Nursing home owners stole $18 million leading to neglect and deaths: AG

The owners of a nursing home in upstate New York are accused of siphoning over $18 million in state money – and suffering “inhumane” conditions that residents have only worsened amid the coronavirus pandemic, they said officials on Tuesday.

Attorney General Letitia James announced her lawsuit against the Villages of Orleans Health and Rehabilitation Center in Albion, claiming it was “one of the worst offenders” of nursing homes that prioritized profits over patient care, leading to a crisis when COVID-19 hit year 2020 struck.

“Every individual deserves to live out their golden years in comfort and dignity,” James said at a news conference. “But the abject failure of The Villages and its owners to comply with their legal obligations has resulted in residents suffering inhumane treatment, neglect and harm.”

New York Attorney General Letitia James speaks at a news conference.
New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a complaint against the Villages of Orleans Health and Rehabilitation Center nursing home for resident neglect.
Attorney General of New York State

The lawsuit, which also names 12 nursing home owners and managers as defendants, accused them of pocketing funds — including from Medicare and Medicaid — to upkeep and provide quality care to residents.

Meanwhile, owners have cut staff at the 120-bed facility – which has led to the neglect of residents, some of whom have often been left in their own urine and feces for hours, and left malnourished and dehydrated, the AG claimed.

In the worst cases, this poor care is said to have resulted in the deaths of the patients. Residents developed life-threatening infections and burns from bed sores allowed to fester and lack of proper care, the lawsuit alleges.

Awful conditions have been exacerbated during the pandemic as management tried to hide COVID cases and failed to enforce proper quarantine and isolation protocols, James claimed.

According to an AG spokesman, 75 residents died of COVID-19 at the facility over the course of the pandemic.

The sparse staff had to work even longer hours and were ill with COVID-19 and were not provided with adequate personal protective equipment. Staff who had fevers were told to go outside for an hour and then take their temperatures again, James claimed.

The Villages facility.
The owners and managers of The Villages are accused of siphoning $18.6 million in public funds to improve care for residents.
The Villages of Orleans County

Owners have also skimped on qualified medical staff by allowing nursing assistants to do jobs they weren’t trained or licensed to do, the AG said.

Despite the dangerous understaffing — with just four employees working during a night shift — owners were still trying to increase the number of residents at the facility, James said.

The owners purchased the nursing home in January 2015 and downgraded it from a five-star Medicare and Medicaid facility to just one star four months later in April of this year, according to AG’s lawsuit filed in Orleans County Superior Court Tuesday became.

A photo of a pressure ulcer on a resident's back.
Residents were reportedly malnourished, dehydrated and contracting infections from neglected bed sores.
Attorney General of New York State

From 2015 to 2021, the facility received $86.4 million in funding — including from Medicare and Medicaid.

But the owners robbed $18.6 million of those funds — or 20% of their operating budget — by paying “inflated” rents to their company, Telegraph Realty, and management fees to another company — each eventually netting them millions of dollars, the lawsuit alleges .

They “did not reinvest these funds to improve the building, operations, or quality of life and to serve residents,” the indictment said. And because of this alleged fraud, they are “in a precarious position to confront the COVID-19 pandemic,” the lawsuit states.

Another resident puts his face first in his food.

75 residents are said to have died from COVID-19 during the course of the pandemic.

A resident lies face down on his food.

According to the lawsuit, some residents died as a result of The Villages’ alleged negligence.

Residents, meanwhile, were forced to live in disgusting and unsanitary conditions with dirt, mold and insects in the building, which was left in a state of disrepair, the filing said.

There were broken medical equipment and HVAC equipment, and a lack of adequate “cleaning and hygiene supplies,” the lawsuit says.

A resident arrived at the facility in 2020 with a broken leg and became suicidal, prompting an outside psychologist to direct staff to check on her every 30 minutes. But the staff didn’t monitor her and she died 20 days later. The facility then failed to report her death to the Department of Health as required, the lawsuit says.

Facebook post about the building with photos of rust, moisture damage and peeling paint.
A resident wrote in May 2020 about the alleged deterioration of the building.
Attorney General of New York State

Another resident ended up at The Villages in January 2021 with severe pressure ulcers, but staff failed to properly attend to the wounds and gave her unnecessary medication — including psychiatric drugs — and she died seven months later on July 13, according to the lawsuit.

Margarette Volkmar, the wife of a villager who has since died, described her disturbing experience at the home one New Year’s Day when she repeatedly called for hours and was repeatedly told her husband was asleep.

Volkmar finally asked employees to videotape her husband, where she saw him “lying on a bed with no sheets, no blankets, no clothes,” she said at a Tuesday news conference. “He was wearing a diaper.”

“So it was 14 degrees,” she said.

Darlene Stevens recalled her mentally disabled brother, 59, entering The Villages weighing 169lbs – and being rushed to hospital months later after withering to just 125lbs.

“He couldn’t speak anymore,” Stevens said. “He was starved… he was medicated.”

“It was a horrific situation,” Stevens said, adding that her brother died in hospital.

Vicki Juckett said her frail mother is currently at The Villages where she sprained her ankle after ending up at the house with a fractured pelvis on day one. Since then she has suffered “massive skin injuries” such as rashes and bedsores.

“I don’t want her to continue suffering,” Jukett said.

James said she is asking a judge to force the owners to return the monies allegedly siphoned off.

She also wants a receiver, financial monitor, and health monitor installed to ensure the facility is running properly. And James wants a judge to lockdown the house to temporarily stop taking in new patients and for three of the owners to be removed from their posts running The Villages.

The Villages did not return messages seeking comment on Tuesday. Nursing home owners stole $18 million leading to neglect and deaths: AG


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