Cops: Ex-nursing home worker stole jewelry from residents

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A former nursing home employee was arraigned Tuesday on charges of possession of jewelry stolen in July from residents of the Center Moriches facility where she worked, authorities said.

Ashley Cancemi, 24, was a certified nursing assistant at the Cedar Lodge Nursing Home on Frowein Road, where Suffolk police said jewelry was stolen from residents between July 20 and 29 to support her drug habit.

"We became aware of a rash of thefts within a small period of time," said Brian Zwolak, the Cedar Lodge administrator. "We had significant amounts of fairly valuable jewelry stolen. . . . When we found out about the thefts, it obviously disgusted us."

The physical and mental condition of many of the home's residents would make them easy prey, Zwolak said, but one victim was able to give a description of the person who came into her room and took her jewelry. The suspect "didn't bank on the fact that one of our residents would be able to identify her," Zwolak said.

Cancemi was working at the nursing home for only about two weeks, Zwolak said, when he fired her without a giving cause, so as not to alert her to their suspicions and to the police investigation.

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Sgt. Chris Corsino of the Seventh Precinct Crime Section said an investigation led to Cancemi's arrest outside her home in Shirley on Monday.

She was charged with fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property, six counts of fifth-degree criminal possession of stolen property and three counts of seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, police said.

"Aside from the arrest, the most important thing is these people want their jewelry back," Corsino said. "Some have dementia and some hadn't taken the jewelry off their fingers for years. . . . All the jewelry, or at least most of it, was recovered and will eventually be returned."

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At her arraignment Tuesday at First District Court in Central Islip Cancemi's bond was set at $100,000 or $50,000 bail. She is next due in court on Friday.

With Patricia Kitchen

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