A.G. Schneiderman Secures Guilty Plea In Local “Hidden Camera” Nursing Home Investigation

Troy Health Care Worker Pleads Guilty After Being Caught on Hidden Camera Neglecting & Endangering Patient

Schneiderman: We Will Hold Accountable Anyone Who Preys on Vulnerable New Yorkers

 

TROY - Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that a former health care worker pleaded guilty to charges that she neglected and endangered a dependent patient. Alicia Smith, a licensed practical nurse, entered the guilty plea following the Attorney General's hidden surveillance camera investigation that revealed her misconduct.

"The actions uncovered by our investigation are simply inexcusable," Attorney General Schneiderman said. "We will hold accountable anyone who preys on vulnerable New Yorkers. By using each of the tools at our office's disposal, we will ensure that the ill are treated with the respect they deserve."

With the consent of the family members, the Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) installed surveillance cameras to monitor the staff at the Northwoods Rehabilitation and Extended Care Facility in Troy. Over the course of a six-week period in 2009, the investigation revealed instances where staff neglected and endangered the patient. The resident was not cared for or given medication, and aides failed to check the resident for incontinence and change undergarments for long periods of time. In addition, the resident's medical records show that the defendants falsified medical records to conceal their neglect. A physician's assistant also created a phony record of an annual medical exam that never happened.

Smith's plea reflects her actions as a Northwoods employee. She admitted that on March 7, 2009, she falsely documented medical records to state that she administered medication to a resident when in fact she did not. On March 23, 2009, Smith again falsely documented that she had applied ointment to a resident with an open pressure sore, but had not done so. She also admitted to endangering the resident's welfare by failing to properly treat the open pressure sore and failing to provide timely, consistent, safe, adequate and appropriate services to the resident.

Smith, a 37-year-old Schenectady resident, entered the guilty plea before the Honorable Robert Jacon in Rensselaer County Court to two counts of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, class E felonies, one count of Endangering the Welfare of a Physically Disabled Person, a class A misdemeanor, and one count of Willful Violation of the Public Health Law, an unclassified misdemeanor. A class E felony carries a maximum penalty of four years in prison and the misdemeanors carry a maximum penalty of one year in jail.

This plea is the latest case in which the Attorney General's office has used hidden cameras to obtain evidence to prosecute health care workers for mistreating patients, and the office is leading the nation in using hidden surveillance to investigate the abuse and neglect of patients at nursing homes. To date, 30 nursing home employees have been convicted based on surveillance recordings. In addition, one nursing home corporate owner has been convicted and another has settled a civil suit brought by the Attorney General's office as a result of a hidden camera investigation.

The case began with charges against six licensed practical nurses and seven certified nurse aides that included multiple counts of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, a class E felony, Endangering the Welfare of a Physically Disabled Person, a class A misdemeanor, and Willful Violation of the Public Health Law, an unclassified misdemeanor. A physician's assistant was charged with one count of each of the above charges.

A Rensselaer County Grand Jury indicted nine caregivers who were arraigned in September 2010. Six licensed practical nurses and two certified nurse aides were charged with multiple counts of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, Endangering the Welfare of a Physically Disabled Person, and Willful Violation of the Public Health Law. Six certified nurse aides have all entered pleas of guilty to various counts of Falsifying Business Records in the Second Degree, a class A misdemeanor, Endangering the Welfare of a Physically Disabled Person, and Willful Violation of Public Health Law. They have all surrendered their certificates and paid fines. All of the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

This case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Kathleen Boland of the MFCU Albany Regional Office under the supervision of Regional Director Richard Harrow and Deputy Attorney General of MFCU Monica J. Hickey-Martin. The investigation was conducted by Confidential Medical Analyst Karen Patterson, RN, Senior Special Investigator Erik Podszus, Special Investigator Dawn Scandaliato, Supervising Special Investigator William Erdogan, and Associate Special Audit Investigator Joanna-Joy Volo.  

 

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