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Post date: May 28 2008

Attorney General Cuomo Charges Two Rochester Area Nursing Home Aides For Id Theft, False Paperwork

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (May 28, 2008) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced his office has filed charges against two Rochester area nursing home employees: one who allegedly used patients’ personal information to secure utility services for her home and another who allegedly falsified paperwork to cover up his prior criminal background.

“My Medicaid Fraud Control Unit continues to aggressively pursue abuses by nursing home employees, and we will continue to prosecute those who either take advantage of their positions when caring for our loved ones or lie on official applications in an attempt to cover up their past,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “Thousands of New Yorkers and their families depend on - and trust - nursing home aides to provide vital services. Deceptions and abuses of this trust are unacceptable. We will intervene to ensure quality care is provided.”

Certified Nurse Aide (CNA) Tara Smith, 35, of Bartlett St. in Rochester, formerly employed at the Blossom North Nursing Home, is accused of using two elderly patients’ Social Security Numbers to fraudulently obtain cable service from Time Warner Cable and power from Rochester Gas & Electric.

Smith was arraigned in Rochester City Court before Judge Stephen T. Miller on a felony complaint charging two counts of Identity Theft in the Second Degree (class E felony) and two counts of Theft of Services (class A misdemeanor). The maximum penalty for Identity Theft in the Second Degree is 4 years in prison. Smith was released on her own recognizance, pending a June 4 court appearance.

In a separate case, another CNA, Robert O’Dell, 61, of Parrish St. in Canandaigua, formerly employed at the Finger Lakes Living Center North in Geneva, is accused of deliberately lying about his prior criminal record on his Nursing Home Nurse Aide Registry Application. On the form, which is submitted to the New York State Department of Health, O’Dell allegedly falsely checked “No” when asked if was ever convicted of any crime, felony or misdemeanor in any state or country. O’Dell was convicted of Criminal Contempt in the 2nd Degree in 2001 in Ogden and of Criminal Impersonation in the 2nd Degree in 2002 in Palmyra. O’Dell’s application with the Department of Health was used as part of his criminal background check, which nursing homes and health care facilities conduct to verify eligibility for CNAs.

O’Dell was arraigned in Geneva City Court before Judge Bram Lehman on a felony complaint charging one count of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the 1st Degree (class E felony), which also carries a maximum penalty of 4 years in prison. O’Dell was released on his own recognizance, pending a June 5 court appearance.

Both Smith and O’Dell have been terminated from their positions at the nursing facilities.

The charges against the defendants 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).

Attorney General Cuomo thanked the administration and staff of the Blossom North Nursing Home, Finger Lakes Living Center North, Time Warner Cable and Rochester Gas and Electric for their cooperation and assistance in these investigations. Special Assistant Attorney General Timothy McFarland of Attorney General Cuomo’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit’s Rochester Regional Office is prosecuting both cases. Assisting in the investigations are Special Investigators Douglas Hinchey and Debra Clementi.