The owners of a Medford nursing home "dedicated themselves to lining their own pockets" with millions in public funds while slashing costs that led to abuse, neglect and in one case, the death of a 72-year-old female resident, the state attorney charged Tuesday.
Instead of paying for upgrades at Medford Multicare Center for Living, owners Mordechai Klein, Norman Rausman, Martin Rausman, Michael Rausman, Henry Rausman and Mendel Aschkenazi, now deceased, "looted" close to $60 million for personal use in the past decade, according to a civil suit by Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.
Schneiderman's office arrested seven employees Tuesday for allegedly allowing or covering up the woman's death, and two more for patient neglect.
"Nursing home residents are among our state's most vulnerable citizens," Schneiderman said in a statement. "Today's arrests and lawsuit send a message that we will not tolerate anyone being neglected or denied life-saving medical treatment."
Five of the six owners couldn't be reached for comment.
The employees have been placed on leave, "but because we believe that people are innocent until proven guilty, they will continue to be paid while these issues are under review," according to a statement from the nursing home, which remains open.
Officials in Schneiderman's office said they can't close it, and the state Department of Health has to find a place for the patients to live or appoint a receiver to manage the home.
Millions in public funds pegged for the residents' health care were siphoned off to "enrich the defendants through exorbitant salaries, bogus fees through a shell company and self-serving charitable contributions," according to the lawsuit.
The defendants' neglect led to serious injury and made "impossible the delivery of required services that Medicaid paid for," stated the suit, which also named the nursing home and its management company as defendants.
The 57-page suit drew up a graphic depiction of decrepit and in some cases deadly conditions at the 320-bed facility. From the moment it opened in March 2003, the suit stated, "the train was off the tracks."
A consultant who toured the facility noted that "when I would go to a unit and I would smell patients or I would smell urine, to me that's a significant issue." The consultant said the living areas were devoid of staff where typically they would be checking on patients. The owners were instead preoccupied with cutting financial corners, according to the suit.
It noted that 17 licensed and certified workers have been convicted of neglect and falsification of records since 2008, and 5,000 incidents and accidents were reported in the past six years. The son of a resident complained his father had fallen six times since being admitted in June 2013. The suit stated the resident was taken to "a local hospital with a fractured skull and brain bleed." In January, a resident was taken to a hospital with a broken back, and staff told her son "they didn't know how it happened."
Neglect cost resident Aurelia Rios, 72, her life in October 2012, Schneiderman said. She died because she was not attached to a ventilator machine as ordered by her doctor, Schneiderman's suit said. The nine charged entered pleas of not guilty Tuesday in First District Court in Central Islip. All but two were released on their own recognizance.
Respiratory therapist Kethlie Joseph, 61, of Brentwood was charged with criminally negligent homicide in the death.
The nursing home's administrator, David Fielding, 56, of Lido Beach, and the director of respiratory therapy, Christine Boylan, 49, of Mastic, were charged with trying to cover up the death by concealing computer records from the state. Fielding's attorney, Brian Griffin of Garden City, said "integrity" has been the "hallmark" of the nursing home administrator's career.
Kimberly Lappe, 31, of Medford; Victoria Caldwell, 50, of Medford; Christina Corelli, 37, of East Patchogue, and Patricia Giovanni, 62, of Port Jefferson, were charged with making false claims about not hearing alarms that went off when Rios stopped breathing.
Yolanda Monsalvo, 47, of Nesconset allegedly left the building after one of her patients suffered a head injury and broken arm; Catherine Reyes, 49, of Ridge, allegedly neglected a patient "found in deplorable and dangerously unsanitary conditions."
With Darran Simon
and Gary Dymski