State Lawsuit Against Brooklyn Adult Home Operators Alleges Fraud, Neglect And Unsafe Conditions

State Attorney General Spitzer and State Health Commissioner Dr. Antonia C. Novello today announced the filing of a lawsuit charging that the former operators of Seaport Manor Home for Adults failed to provide for the health, safety and welfare of the residents, while forcing them to live in deplorable conditions.

The suit alleges that despite repeated demands by state officials to correct the myriad of deficiencies and horrendous living conditions at Seaport Manor - a 346-bed adult home in Canarsie - the violations continued. In one instance, the operators failed to properly investigate and document the death of a resident who died when her clothing caught fire. On numerous occasions state agencies found that common areas and residents' rooms were infested with mice, cockroaches and flies. The operators also failed to ensure residents received medication in the proper dosage and at the scheduled times.

"The shocking conditions at Seaport Manor violated the law and our sense of decency. The operators of this facility failed residents in every way, " Spitzer said. "We will vigorously litigate this case to ensure that those responsible for the abuse are held accountable and make restitution to the residents."

The Attorney General began investigating Seaport Manor in June of this year. Previous inspections by the State Health Department resulted in Seaport being cited with 122 violations of state public health law and regulations. Officials concluded that lack of supervision, inadequate medical care and substandard conditions at the Manor threatened the safety of its residents.

State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, M.D., M.P.H., Dr. P.H. said: "This lawsuit should be a strong signal for other bad operators of adult homes that Governor Pataki has made it a priority to ensure that adult home residents in New York are receiving quality care. Those operators who attempt to enhance their personal finances at the expense of this vulnerable population or at the expense of State taxpayers will have to answer for their actions."

Several individuals were cited for their role in the operation of the home, including the operators Martin Rosenberg, Baruch Mappa, and Emil Klein, along with Administrators Elizabeth Rosenberg and Seth Fried.

The defendants were responsible for the operation of Seaport Manor until June of 2002 when conditions became so dangerous that the state obtained a court-appointed receiver to operate the facility while the remaining residents are placed in other adult homes.

The AG's lawsuit further claims that the operators diverted payments made by residents for room and board to entities they owned and controlled, while neglecting to pay for utilities and upkeep of the adult home.

The vast majority of the residents paid for their room and board by using funds provided under the Supplemental Security Income or Safety Net Assistance. These funds also include a Personal Needs Allowance (PNA), which is to be used for the purchase of personal supplies, clothing and other items. Adult care facility operators are required to offer to maintain the funds in a facility account to which each resident has access and, for which there is full accounting. In many instances, the operators of Seaport failed to distribute the PNA funds to residents and required residents to sign documents stating they had received such funds.

Spitzer's lawsuit seeks to permanently bar the operators, owners and administrators from owning, controlling or administering a state-licensed facility serving vulnerable populations such as the elderly, mentally ill and homeless, and seeks to require each defendant to contribute to a restitution fund which will compensate Seaport Manor residents, past or present, for their shoddy treatment and lost PNA funds at the facility since at least December of 1998.

The Attorney General thanked the Commission on Quality of Care for the Mentally Disabled, the Office of Temporary Disability Assistance, and MFY Legal Services for their assistance in this matter.

The case is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Mary Fisher Bernet of the AG's Litigation Bureau and Jacqueline Berkowitz of the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit; along with Investigators John Serapica and Milton Branch of the Investigations Bureau, under the direction of Deputy Attorney General Debra Cohn.