Attorney General Cuomo Announces Arrests Of Rochester Region Nursing Home Employee For Stealing From Resident And Nurse For Billing Medicaid For A No-show Job

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (November 18, 2008) – Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the arrests of a former Gates nursing home employee who allegedly stole and forged personal checks from a resident and a home-care nurse for allegedly billing Medicaid for services for sick children that she never performed.  The arrests stem from Attorney General Cuomo’s statewide investigations into fraud and abuse in the home health-care industry as well as abuse and neglect in institutional care settings.

Carla Phillips, a certified nurse aide working at a Gates nursing home, was charged with stealing personal checks from a nursing home patient, forging the patient’s name and cashing them to the tune of $1,700.  In a separate matter, Faye Thomas, a licensed practical nurse in Rochester, was charged with billing Medicaid $51,000 for private duty nursing services to children which she never provided. 

“New Yorkers are right to be outraged when vulnerable patients are allegedly taken advantage of and public funds are bilked by health care workers,” said Attorney General Cuomo.  “My office will continue to aggressively pursue abuses by health care professionals who not only take advantage and abuse the most dependent and vulnerable, but also steal from New York’s taxpayers.”

Phillips, 29, of Iroquois Street in Rochester, is a former employee at the Westgate Nursing Home in Gates.  According to court records, Phillips is accused of stealing five personal checks from a physically disabled nursing home resident.  Phillips forged the patient’s name on the checks and used the money to pay her own rent as well as to deposit cash into her own banking account and into the account of another person.  Phillips allegedly stole $1,700 from the resident’s bank account.

Phillips was arraigned in Town of Gates Court before Judge Peter Pupatelli on charges of forgery in the second degree (class D felony), criminal possession of a forged instrument in the second degree (class D felony), and grand larceny in the fourth degree (class E felony).  She faces up to 7 years in prison.  Judge Pupatelli ordered the matter held for grand jury.

Meanwhile, Thomas, 42, of Genesee Park Boulevard in Rochester, was accused of billing Medicaid for private duty nursing services for two sick children that she never performed. Thomas allegedly received $51,000 in Medicaid funds to which she was not entitled.

Thomas was arraigned in Rochester City Court before Judge Stephen T. Miller on a charge of grand larceny in the second degree (class C felony), which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.  She was released on her own recognizance pending a November 19, 2008 court appearance. 

Attorney General Cuomo has made protecting New York’s most vulnerable from abuses by health care professionals one of his office’s top priorities.  To date, his ongoing nursing home hidden-camera investigations have led to the arrests or convictions of more than 30 nursing home employees, including cases in Rochester and Cortland.  In addition, Attorney General Cuomo’s long-term “Operation Home Alone” investigation into fraud and abuse in the home health industry has led to charges against more than 100 defendants, including patients, aides, nurses, instructors, and the administrators of licensed and certified home health agencies. It has also led to agreed upon or court ordered restitution of more than $34 million.

Attorney General Cuomo thanked the administration and staff of the Westgate Nursing Home, and the Monroe County Sheriff's Office Technical Services Department for their cooperation and assistance in these investigations.

The charges against Thomas and Phillips are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

New Yorkers are urged to report cases of suspected fraud to the Attorney General’s toll-free Medicaid Fraud Hotline at 1-866-NYS-FIGHT (697-3444).

Both cases are being prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Timothy McFarland of Attorney General Cuomo’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.  Assisting in the investigations are Special Investigators William Falk, Neil Davis, Douglas Hinchey, Arthur Vasile, and Debra Clemente and Special Auditor Investigators Michael Warfield and Jodie Dineen.  Also assisting is Monroe County Sheriff Deputies Scott Shear and Michael Burnside.