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DA: Aide left disabled man in car, worked second job

Esther Reyes, 33, of Freeport, a home health

Esther Reyes, 33, of Freeport, a home health care aide, repeatedly left a developmentally disabled man in a car parked outside her home while she worked a second job driving a school bus, the Nassau County district attorney said Thursday. Reyes was charged with grand larceny, welfare fraud and endangering the welfare of a disabled person, authorities said. (Dec. 17, 2009) Credit: Nassau District Attorney

A home health care aide repeatedly left a developmentally disabled man in a car parked outside her home while she worked a second job driving a school bus, the Nassau County district attorney said Thursday.

Esther Reyes, 33, of Freeport, was arrested Thursday and charged with grand larceny, welfare fraud and endangering the welfare of a disabled person.

Reyes fraudulently collected $34,157 in Medicaid payments by working a second job when she was supposed to be caring for the man, officials said. She faces up to 7 years in prison if convicted, said Kathleen Rice, Nassau County district attorney.

"This case shocks the conscience," Rice said in a statement.

Between July 25, 2006, and Nov. 17, 2008, Reyes worked as a home health aide for a man, now 23, who is autistic and has seizures. Reyes had been hired by the man's parents, a Hicksville couple, to dress and feed their son.

But while Reyes drove a school bus during that time period, she locked the man in a car in her driveway, Rice said.

Reyes violated Medicaid regulations that prohibit care providers from "having secondary employment" during hours they work providing care to patients, prosecutors said.

The Nassau County executive's Medicaid Investigations Unit brought the case to the attention of prosecutors, Rice said.

Reyes was arraigned Thursday in First District Court in Hempstead. Bail was set at $10,000 cash or $20,000 bond. She was taken to Nassau County Correctional Center. Her next court appearance is scheduled for Monday.

Phone numbers listed on public records for Reyes were disconnected. Her attorney, Mark Silverman of Freeport, said he has represented Reyes since November 2008, when she was first charged with misdemeanor endangerment in connection with the 23-year-old patient. That case is scheduled to go to trial in Nassau County Court on Jan, 20.

However, the additional charges were just added yesterday, likely leading to a postponement of the trial, Silverman said.

"The reason we were going to trial on the underlying charge is we felt she would be vindicated," Silverman said. "We feel she provided proper care and she was compensated for that."

Silverman said his client is married and has children.

Chris Munzing, a spokesman for the district attorney's office, declined to comment on what evidence prosecutors had gathered against Reyes.

With Timothy Robertson

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