Attorney General Cuomo Charges Capital Region Nurse Aide With Sexual Abuse

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 5, 2009) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the indictment of a Troy certified nurse aide accused of sexually abusing an elderly nursing home resident. The indictment is part of the Attorney General’s ongoing crackdown of health care providers who abuse those in their care.

In an indictment unsealed today in Rensselaer County Court, Robert Gundersen, a Certified Nurse Aide at the Northwoods Rehabilitation Center in Troy, was charged with sexual abuse in the first degree (class D felony), forcible touching (class A misdemeanor) and sexual abuse in the third degree (class B misdemeanor). Gundersen allegedly sexually abused a physically helpless female patient at Northwoods between December 15, 2007 and January 7, 2008.

“The victims of these types of crimes are often helpless and the perpetrators are shameless,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “We trust health care providers to take care of our family members. We cannot and will not allow the victimization of vulnerable New Yorkers go unanswered.”

According to the indictment, Gundersen, 52, of Route 145 in Middleburgh, worked at the Northwoods Extended Care and Rehabilitation Center on New Turnpike Road in Schaghticoke, and other area facilities, as a Certified Nurse Aide. During evening hours between December 15, 2007 and January 7, 2008, it is alleged that Gundersen touched the breasts and vaginal areas of a 78-year old patient who was physically helpless. If convicted of the charges, Gundersen faces 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison.

Gundersen is already facing charges of sexual abuse in the third degree based on a separate incident stemming from his employment at the Eddy Ford Nursing Home in Cohoes. In that case, it is alleged that between August and September 2008, Gundersen forcibly French-kissed a younger female wheelchair-bound patient with Multiple Sclerosis. The case is pending a May 28 court date.

Attorney General Cuomo has made protecting New York’s most vulnerable from abuses by health care professionals one of his office’s top priorities. Previous actions taken by the Attorney General’s office against abuse and exploitation occurring in nursing homes has resulted in:

  • Sentencing of the nursing home company, Highgate LTC Management, to pay $15,000 in fines and be barred from the business for a period of time. Highgate was found guilty of patient neglect that occurred at its Cortland facility, which was uncovered with the use of hidden-cameras.
  • Sentencing of a former aide at the Rome Memorial Hospital Residential Health Care Facility to 25 years in prison for raping and sexually assaulting a 90-year-old resident of the nursing home.
  • Prosecuting two Rome nursing home employees for stealing and then pawning an engagement ring belonging to an 89-year-old resident.
  • Conviction of a certified nurse aide who stole $8,000 from a 97-year-old resident at The Waters of Orchard Park nursing home in Orchard Park in order to pay a debt she owed for the purchase of cocaine.
  • Prosecuting a former Gates nursing home employee who allegedly stole and forged personal checks from a resident, and then deposited them in her own bank account.
  • Conviction of certified nurse aide formerly employed at the Blossom North Nursing Home in Rochester for using two elderly residents’ Social Security Numbers to fraudulently obtain cable service from Time Warner Cable and power from Rochester Gas & Electric.

Additionally, Attorney General Cuomo’s Office has ongoing hidden-camera investigations at nursing homes across the state. So far, the Attorney General’s crackdown of health care providers who abuse those in their care has led to the arrests or convictions of more than 70 nursing home employees.

The above charges are merely accusations and these defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

The Gundersen case is being handled by Special Assistant Attorney General Kathleen A. Boland and Investigator Antoine Karam under the supervision of First Assistant Attorney General for Legal Affairs Monica J. Hickey-Martin and Heidi Wendel, Special Deputy Attorney General for Medicaid Fraud.