A.G. Schneiderman Announces Indictment Of Nine Suffolk County Nursing Home Employees In Connection With Resident Death

Two Additional Employees Of Medford Nursing Home Arrested In Ongoing Criminal Negligence Case Related To Death Of 72-Year-Old Female Resident; Administrator And Employees Also Charged In Coverup

Schneiderman: We Will Not Tolerate The Denial Of Critical Life Support By Caregivers

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the indictment of nine employees of the Medford Multicare Center for Living, Inc. in Medford, New York, including the facility’s top administrator. Seven of those indicted were arrested and charged earlier this year in connection with the death of a 72-year-old resident who was at the nursing home for what was supposed to be temporary rehabilitation. Two employees, Marianne Fassino and Leona Gordon, were arrested today. All nine defendants were arraigned on the newly filed indictment before Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice John B. Collins. In addition, the corporation operating the home was indicted on charges of attempting to cover up the circumstances surrounding the 2012 death.  

As part of the Attorney General’s ongoing investigation in the case, new felony charges were lodged against Fassino, 53, of Shirley, a registered nurse who was in charge of the home’s ventilator unit the night of the death and who failed to respond to the visual and audio alarms for almost two hours despite being inches away from monitors. Charges were also lodged for the first time against Gordon, 35, of Medford, an aide who was responsible for watching the unit’s alarm monitor in the nursing station to ensure that any alarms were answered in a timely manner. 

All the defendants face up to four years behind bars on the 27 felony counts charged in the indictment. The indictment charges a total of 46 counts, ranging from a top count of criminally negligent homicide to misdemeanor Wilful Violation of Health Laws.

“The negligence alleged in this case is criminal and will not be tolerated in New York nursing homes,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “Today’s indictment sends a clear message: We will arrest those who put our most vulnerable citizens in harm’s way, and in particular those who neglect or deny life-saving medical treatment to patients. We must and will do everything in our power to protect our nursing home residents from abuse.”

The indictment charges Kethlie Joseph, 62, of Brentwood, with Criminally Negligent Homicide for the death of the 72-year-old woman who was residing at Medford Multicare Center. Joseph, a licensed respiratory therapist trained in administering treatment to ventilator-dependent residents, admitted never having read a doctor’s orders requiring the resident to be connected to a ventilator machine at night. As a result, the resident was not connected to the ventilator when she went to sleep, and she died that night, October. 26, 2012. Joseph not only ignored alarms for more than two hours, but also ignored messages to her pager when the resident stopped breathing.  Furthermore, video surveillance captured Joseph walking toward her office and passing the resident’s room while the alarms were sounding. She did not reappear until much later, when a staff member went and got her after an aide, not assigned to this resident, checked on the resident, who by then had been dead for some time.

Beyond the three defendants named above, four additional employees of the nursing staff were also indicted in connection with the resident’s death. They are:

  • Kimberly Lappe, 31, of Medford, a registered nurse who also failed to respond to the visual and audio alarms for almost two hours. Despite video evidence to the contrary, Lappe also falsely claimed in notes written a day after the incident that nurses had responded to the alarms and that the resident was in stable condition. 
     
  • Victoria Caldwell, 51, of Medford, a licensed practical nurse who claimed to investigators that the resident was alive and “looked up at me” when in fact the resident had likely been dead for some time.  
     
  • Christina Corelli, 37, of East Patchogue, an aide who falsely claimed that the resident’s respiratory alarms were not beeping and that the resident was breathing normally when she was in the room with the resident.  Records show that the alarm system had been activated for the entire time she was in the resident’s room.  
     
  • Patricia DiGiovanni, 62, of Port Jefferson, an aide who was assigned to sit at the resident’s bedside but did not respond to alarms ringing at the resident’s bedside.

Medford Multicare Center’s licensed administrator, David Fielding, 56, of West Lido Beach, and its director of respiratory therapy, Christine Boylan, 49, of Mastic, were also indicted and charged with concealing computer records documenting the alarms that signified the resident’s distress from the NYS Department of Health (DOH) during the course of its investigation, in an attempt to cover up the incident. An anonymous Medford whistleblower later informed authorities of the circumstances.

In addition to these nine employees charged in this case, other employees were arrested earlier this year for their roles in separate incidents at the facility. One of those workers, Cathryn Reyes, pled guilty May 13. Reyes, 49, of Ridge, and Yolanda Monsalvo, 47, of Nesconset, were charged with Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree in order to cover up having neglected other residents and provided false statements to conceal the neglect. Reyes pled guilty to Falsifying Business Records in the Second Degree and admitted that she falsified a statement that she wrote during Medford’s investigation into the neglect of a resident. A second resident, who suffered from dementia, sustained a traumatic head injury and a broken arm when Monsalvo left the building instead of monitoring the resident. She pled not guilty. 

Besides Fassino and Gordon, the above-named defendants were initially arrested and charged February 11. The indictment was filed May 23. The charges announced today are accusations and defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

The Attorney General separately filed a civil lawsuit earlier this year charging the home’s owners with corporate looting and fraud, based on a history of criminal conduct by employees of the home. The suit against the owners of the Medford Multicare Center detailed a long pattern of resident neglect and systematic corporate looting. 

Since 2008, an additional 17 licensed and certified employees of the Medford facility have been convicted of neglect and the falsification of records in an attempt to cover up abuse and neglect. Six of the 17 convictions arose out of hidden camera investigations conducted by the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.

The civil complaint details how Medford’s owners lined their pockets with millions in public Medicaid funds while turning a blind eye to persistent neglect of residents by senior management and staff.  Since opening Medford in 2003, the owners systemically looted the facility by paying themselves at least $60 million, representing 22% of the Medicaid funding they received in that time.  

The lawsuit further alleges that:

  • The New York State Department of Health cited the nursing home for 130 violations of state regulations designed to ensure adequate care to nursing home residents; and 
     
  • Five thousand incidents and accidents have been logged at the facility since 2008, averaging 20 per week; only 60 of the 5,000 were reported to the New York State Department of Health as required by law. 

The Attorney General’s civil suit also describes how, even after all the arrests and citations, rather than investing in better staffing and improved supervision to remedy the history of neglect and inadequate care, the home’s owners slashed salaries and supplies. The complaint alleges that the owners, who paid themselves exhorbitant salaries, failed in their obligations to ensure proper care for residents and siphoned millions of Medicaid dollars intended to provide necessary care and improve residents’ quality of life.

The Attorney General would like to thank the New York State Department of Health for referring these matters to the Office and for its assistance in conducting the investigations.  The Attorney General would also like to thank the New York State Police and the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office for their assistance in processing the arrests of the defendants.

The cases were investigated by Senior Special Investigator Dawn Scandaliato, Senior Special Investigator Regina Hogan and former Special Investigator Jessica Toritto, with assistance from Supervising Special Investigator Greg Muroff, MFCU Deputy Chief Investigator Kenneth Morgan, Karen Patterson, RN, Confidential Medical Analyst, and Pedro Villegas and Doreen Lankowitz, Confidential Systems Analysts.  Forensic audit work was performed by Milan Shah, Associate Special Auditor, Joanna-Joy Volo, Associate Special Auditor Investigator, and Theresa White, Supervising Auditor, with assistance from Michael LaCasse, Chief Auditor for Civil Enforcement.

The criminal and civil investigations were conducted by Special Assistant Attorneys General Veronica Bindrim-MacDevitt, Sally G. Blinken and David Abrams.  Jane Zwirn-Turkin is the Deputy Regional Director of the Hauppauge Regional Office, Thomas O’Hanlon is the Chief of Criminal Investigations-Downstate, Paul J. Mahoney is the Assistant Deputy Attorney General, Amy Held is the Acting Director and Kelly Donovan is the Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice.

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