Nurse And Aide Arrested In Undercover Patient Abuse Probe At County-run Nursing Home In Orange County

Attorney General Spitzer today announced that a licensed practical nurse and a nurse's aide at the Orange County Residential Health Care Facility (OCRHCF) have been arrested on felony charges. The arrests are part of an ongoing investigation by the Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) into patient abuse at the facility located in Goshen.

LPN Richard A. Randolph has been charged with unlawfully withholding medication from patients, falsifying their medical charts to cover up his neglect, and removing powerful narcotic patches from two elderly patients. The patches contained the pain-killing medication, Fentanyl.

Nathaniel Daniel, a certified nurse's aide, has been charged with lying on his county employment application by failing to note that he had previously been convicted of Robbery in the First Degree in Ulster County in 1985. A further check of his criminal history by investigators revealed that Daniel had also been convicted of Rape in the Second Degree in North Carolina.

"Every day patients in nursing homes put their lives and trust in the hands of nurses and other professional health care staff," said Spitzer. "For an employee like Randolph to betray his sworn duty by stealing patients' medication is offensive and inexcusable. It is obvious, based on his actions, that he should never again work with patients in a health care setting."

Spitzer added, "This case also serves to underscore the urgent need for criminal background checks of aides and other health care workers who provide much of the direct care to patients in the State's more than 670 nursing homes. Under the bill I submitted to the Legislature last session, and will re-submit this year, nursing homes and home health care agencies would be obligated to screen new employees by obtaining criminal history checks. Such screening would effectively weed out the worst offenders from the system, and vastly improve the safety and security of our most vulnerable citizens."

Deputy Attorney General Jos? Maldonado, Director of the MFCU, noted that his staff had arrested a third OCRHCF employee, Registered Nurse JoAnn Morawski, last February for also removing a narcotic patch from an elderly patient. Morawski, who had failed to note on her employment application that she previously had been convicted of stealing patients' prescribed medications while a nurse at a New Jersey hospital, pleaded guilty to Wilful Violation of Health Laws and surrendered her nursing license.

The investigation leading to today's arrests began on December 15, 2000, when the State Department of Health referred a complaint it had received from OCRHCF to the MFCU. The complaint alleged that a medication patch was found missing from an 81-year-old female patient suffering from dementia and back pain. Working closely with the facility's administration, MFCU investigators interviewed staff members who were working in the vicinity of the patient, and conducted background checks of those staff members.

In January, following the receipt of additional complaints of missing patches, the MFCU, with the cooperation of the facility and permission of the patient's family, began an undercover investigation, including video surveillance, of the facility.

The Attorney General thanked the State Health Department for its referral of the matter. He also thanked the administration of the Orange County Residential Health Care Facility and the Goshen Police Department for their assistance and cooperation during the investigation.

Richard A. Randolph, 33, of 606 Stoneridge Drive in Middletown, has been a licensed practical nurse in New York State since 1992. He has been employed by OCRHCF since 1998.

Randolph has been charged with three counts of Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, two counts of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, three counts of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Seventh Degree, three counts of Endangering the Welfare of an Incompetent or Physically Disabled Person, and four counts of Wilful Violation of Health Laws. If convicted, he faces up to four years in prison.

Nathaniel Daniel, 49, of the Cedar Grove Apartments on Route 209 in Ellenville, was employed by OCRHCF since September 1999.

Daniel has been charged with one count of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree. If convicted, he faces up to four years in prison.

Both defendants will be arraigned today in Goshen Town Court.

Special Assistant Attorney General Gilbert Epstein, of the MFCU's Pearl River Regional Office is prosecuting the cases. All cases are handled under the direct supervision of Deputy Attorney General Jos? Maldonado.

The charges against Daniel and Randolph are accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.