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Post date: January 4 2016

A.G. Schneiderman Announces Plea Involving Owners & Other Top Officials at Mohawk Valley Nursing Home Over Allegations of Covering-Up Resident Abuse and Neglect

Defendants Were Also Accused Of Eavesdropping On Investigators And Destroying Evidence When Incidents Came To Light

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the entry of a guilty plea by MVNH Associates, LLC, d/b/a Mohawk Valley Health Care Center to Falsifying Business Records in the second degree (a class A misdemeanor) today in County Court, Herkimer County, before Judge John H. Crandall.   In a separate civil settlement agreement MVNH has agreed to return $1,000,000 in overpayments to the Medicaid program. The company will hire an independent monitor to implement reforms, including a revamped compliance program, and divestiture of ownership by two of the convicted defendants and a related investor who owned forty-four percent of the company.

MVNH’s plea involved adding an employee’s name to the staffing sheet on a day that employee did not work. This plea resolves a case that involved a 45 count indictment that alleged crimes arising from the suppression of two incidents of patient abuse and neglect, and related charges of falsifying records; not all defendants are charged with every crime alleged in the indictment, except for the corporation, MVNH Associates, LLC, d/b/a Mohawk Valley Health Care Center. MVNH Associates, LLC was sentenced to a $5,000 fine.

“The plea announced today resolves an investigation into troubling acts of abuse and neglect and a cover-up by those who should have been putting patients first,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Nursing facilities are entrusted with an important responsibility to treat patients with the dignity and respect they deserve. My office will continue to hold individuals and nursing facilities accountable when they betray the trust of patients and the families who place loved ones in their care.”

The indictment detailed allegations arising from two apparent incidents that took place in May, 2013, and an alleged cover-up of the two incidents. The first alleged incident involved a serious medication error that went unnoticed for several days. The second alleged incident involved a resident suffering from dementia engaging in unlawful sexual conduct towards another resident in an unsupervised dining room. When these incidents came to light, it is alleged that owner Gerald “Jerry” Wood III criminally eavesdropped on investigators from the Attorney General’s Office while they were conducting an interview with a nursing home employee about the incidents. The indictment also alleged a conspiracy involving facility part-owner and technical manager Justin Wood and other defendants destroying electronic evidence of the alleged events.

In earlier court proceedings two owners, the former Administrator, and the former Director of Nursing had entered guilty pleas. 

On August 26, 2015, former Director of Nursing Nicolle Wagner Stinson pled guilty to two counts of Tampering with Physical Evidence for concealing from the New York State Department of Health a medication administration record and a witness’ statement.  Sentencing for Wagner-Stinson is scheduled for January 12, 2016.

On November 24, 2015, co-owner Gerald “Jerry” Wood III entered a plea to Attempted Eavesdropping for attempting to eavesdrop on an employee interview being conducted by Medicaid Fraud Control Unit investigators.  He was sentenced to three years’ probation, including a three year prohibition from owning, working for, or working in or being associated with a residential healthcare facility.

Also on November 24, 2015, co-owner Justin Wood pled guilty to Conspiracy in the fifth degree for conspiring to tampering with evidence.  He was sentenced to a fine and is prohibited from owning, working for, or working in or being associated with a residential healthcare facility for one year.

Both Gerald “Jerry” Wood III and Justin Wood, as well as their father, Gerald “Jerry” Wood, Jr., will be required to divest their ownership interests under the civil settlement.

On December 2, 2015, former Administrator John Prendergast pled guilty to Attempted Tampering with Physical Evidence involving the attempted concealing of a witness’ statement from the NYS Department of Health.  Sentencing is scheduled for February 23, 2016.

The Attorney General thanks the New York State Department of Health for their assistance in this matter.

The case was investigated by Special Investigator Scott Petucci, Senior Investigator Patrick M. Lynch, Senior Special Investigator Thaddeus Kaczor, Senior Investigator Michael J. Ostuni, Special Investigator Keith Hall and Special Investigator Christopher M. Burns. Also contributing to the investigation were Associate Special Auditor/Investigators Sabrina Stagnitta and Milan Shah, Senior Auditor/Investigator Dejan Budimir, Special Auditors/Investigators Siobhan P. O’Leary and Carri Brooks, and Regional Chief Auditor Thomas J. Goodman. The case is being prosecuted by Ralph D. Tortora, III, Regional Director, Syracuse Regional Office of the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit; the civil settlement was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Sally Blinken and David Abrams. Catherine Wagner is Chief of Criminal Investigations-Upstate. William Falk is the Deputy Chief Investigator Upstate. The Medicaid Fraud Control Unit is led by Acting Director Amy Held and Assistant Deputy Attorney General Paul J. Mahoney. The Division of Criminal Justice is led by executive Deputy Attorney General Kelly Donovan.