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Post date: July 8 2005

Two Long Island Nursing Home Officials Charged With Stealing $400,000 By Padding Payroll

Attorney General Spitzer today announced that two former nursing home supervisors of a Long Beach nursing home have been arrested on charges of stealing more than $400,000 from the home. The mother of one of the supervisors has also been charged in the scheme.

Charged with second-degree grand larceny and unauthorized practice of a profession are:

1) Brian Lawrence, 37, of Lehigh Acres, FL, the former Director of Nursing at the Park Avenue Extended Care Center (Park Avenue), a nursing home in Long Beach. Lawrence was also treasurer and part-owner of Magnolia Staffing, Inc., a nurse staffing agency.

2) Bryan Cassinera, 29, of Bethpage, NY, the former Assistant Director of Nursing at the Park Avenue facility and vice-president and part-owner of Magnolia Staffing.

3) Winifred John, 57, of Far Rockaway, a personal care aide and mother of defendant Brian Lawrence.

The three defendants were arraigned June 16th in Long Beach City Court before Judge Roy Tepper. If convicted, they each face up to 15 years in prison.

According to the Complaint filed in the case, between May 1, 2002, and May 31, 2004, Lawrence and Cassinera fraudulently caused the Park Avenue nursing home to pay Magnolia Staffing for nursing services that had not been provided or that had been provided by unlicensed individuals, including the defendant John, or by other individuals who were not authorized to provide these services.

As part of the scheme, it is alleged that Lawrence and Cassinera falsified Park Avenue staffing records to fraudulently inflate the number of nurses from the Magnolia agency assigned to shifts at the nursing home and the hours that they worked. As Magnolia's owners, they then submitted corresponding fraudulent invoices to Park Avenue for these hours even though they knew that such nursing services had not been rendered. It is further alleged that Lawrence and Cassinera pocketed the money that Park Avenue paid Magnolia for these services.
Furthermore, as part of the scheme to steal from Park Avenue, it is alleged that Lawrence and Cassinera employed Lawrence's mother, the defendant John, as a registered nurse at the Park Avenue home even though they knew she was not a nurse and that she had only been trained as a personal care aide. As a result, they allowed John to provide nursing care she was not authorized to perform and they caused the nursing home to pay John an inflated nursing salary which they also diverted to themselves.

Finally, it is charged that to avoid Park Avenue's policy precluding him from earning overtime, the defendant Lawrence, who is a registered nurse, worked at the home under assumed names and then caused Magnolia to submit invoices to Park Avenue for these services, thereby obtaining money from the nursing home to which he was not entitled.

Lawrence was employed at Park Avenue Extended Care Nursing Home, located at 425 National Boulevard in Long Beach, from October 1999 until his termination in May 2005.

Cassinera was employed at Park Avenue from December 1999 until his termination in May 2005.

The charges against Lawrence, Cassinera, and John are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

The Attorney General thanked Park Avenue Extended Care Center for referring the matter to his office, and Premier Home Health Care Services, the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and, in particular, DMV Supervising Investigator Melvin Milner for their assistance during the investigation.

Special Assistant Attorney General Alan Buonpastore, Director of the Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit's Long Island Regional Office, is prosecuting the case. Associate Special Auditor Investigator Mary Gail Kowtna and Senior Special Investigators Gerard Worysz and Thomas McBride assisted in the investigation.