New York Attorney General Letitia James on June 6 in New York...

New York Attorney General Letitia James on June 6 in New York City.  Credit: AP / Mary Altaffer

ALBANY — State Attorney General Letitia James on Tuesday sued the Fulton Commons Care Center nursing home in East Meadow, accusing its operators of a “toxic culture of deceit” that used public money to pad the payroll for relatives and a “heinous record of resident abuse."

The lawsuit also accuses the facility of knowingly underreporting deaths from the COVID-19 virus by as much as 45% while avoiding scrutiny by making robocalls to family members that said the facility “was free from COVID-19."

The attorney general’s office filed the lawsuit Tuesday to force changes in the operation of the nursing home, but to keep the facility open, a spokeswoman said.

“Fulton Commons failed its residents and denied them the basic right of receiving comfortable, competent, and respectful care at the facility entrusted to serve them,” James said. “Rather than honor their legal duty to ensure the highest possible quality of life for the residents in their care, the Fulton Commons owners cut funding for staffing so they could take more money for their own personal gain. These actions led to a devastating pattern of resident abuse, neglect, and mistreatment.”

The nursing home referred a request for comment to Cathie Doyle, who had been the nursing home administrator. The attorney general’s office said Doyle left the job Nov. 16.

The lawsuit accuses the owner, Moshe Kalter, and several relatives and operators of related companies of “a fraudulent scheme that led to insufficient staffing levels, significant resident neglect, mistreatment, and abuse.”

The lawsuit's accusations of financial fraud include:

  • Using $34.4 million to pay “inflated” rent to one its shell companies.
  • Inappropriately paying $14.9 million to the operators from Medicare and Meidcaid funds and failing to disclose it to the state Health Department.
  • Paying more than $1 million from 2018 through 2021 to the owner’s eight adult children, who were 1% owners of Fulton Commons. In 2018 alone, the adult children were paid $410,875 in salaries on no-show jobs that James contends would equal the cost of 10,000 additional hours of direct care to residents.

Accusations of resident abuse and neglect include:

  • Sexual assault.
  • Repeatedly losing track of residents because they weren’t supervised.
  • Unanswered bells and cries for help.
  • Unexplained bruising, cuts and other injuries.
  • Missed medical treatments.
  • Unchanged underwear and missed trips to restrooms.
  • Illegal restraint of residents in beds or wheelchairs and by drugs.

The subjects of the accusations named in the lawsuit include principal owner Kalter, his wife, Frady Kalter; her brother, Aaron Fogel, and his wife, Esther Fogel. Also named in the lawsuit are the Kalter’s eight adult children: Mindy Steger, Sheindy Saffer, Chana Kanarek, Dovid Kalter, Yitzchok Kalter, Aryeh Kalter, Sheva Treff, and Chaya “Sara” Lieberman; Kalter’s nephew Steven Weiss, Fulton Commons’ comptroller; and Doyle.

The lawsuit seeks to replace the nursing home’s medical director, prohibit admission of more residents until staffing meets appropriate standards, install financial and health care monitors at the owner’s expense, force the owner and others who benefited from the alleged scheme to repay the money, and require them to reimburse the state for cost of the investigation.

Long Islanders whose loved ones were patients at Fulton Commons, both during and prior to the pandemic, recalled a facility that they said was wholly understaffed and failed to provide the most basic care to residents.

“It was a house of horrors for older people,” said Mary McKenna of Bellmore. Her aunt, Eileen Turansky, died at Fulton Commons in 2014 after months of alleged abuse and mistreatment at the facility. 

“They failed in every level of responsibility,” said Meri Danenza of East Meadow. She unsuccessfully had tried to get her mother, Edith Kessler, moved out of Fulton Commons early in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kessler died at Fulton Commons on April 2, 2020, and Danenza said doctors at the facility told the family her mother had COVID-19. “They didn't call us when she was getting worse," Danenza said. " … They didn't do anything.”

In 2020, family members whose loved ones lived and died at Fulton Commons formed a Facebook group to share their stories. The group has more than 250 members.

Last week, the attorney general’s office announced the indictment of a former licensed practical nurse at the nursing home who was accused of sexual abuse of a resident in 2020 and a former director of nursing was indicted on charges of failing to report the abuse.

With Robert Brodsky and Jim Baumbach

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