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NY nursing home owners stole $18M, leaving residents in ‘inhumane’ conditions: suit

The owners of an upstate New York nursing home are accused of siphoning over $18 million in government funds – leaving residents to languish in “inhumane” conditions that only got worse during the coronavirus pandemic, officials said Tuesday.

Attorney General Letitia James announced her lawsuit against The Villages of Orleans Health and Rehabilitation Center in Albion, claiming it was “one of the worst offenders” of nursing homes that put profits over patient care, leading to a crisis when COVID-19 struck in 2020.

“Every individual deserves to live out their golden years in comfort and with dignity,” James said at a news conference. “Yet the abject failure of The Villages and its owners to uphold their duty under the law caused residents to suffer inhumane treatment, neglect, and harm.”

New York Attorney General Letitia James speaking at a press conference.
New York State Attorney General

The suit, which also names 12 of the nursing home’s owners and managers as defendants, accused them of pocketing funding – including from Medicare and Medicaid – meant for upkeep and quality care of residents.

Meanwhile, the owners slashed staff at the 120-bed facility — leading to neglect of residents, some of whom were often left for hours in their own urine and feces and were malnourished and dehydrated, the AG alleged.

In the worst cases, this poor care allegedly caused patients to die. Residents developed life-threatening infections and gangrene from bedsores that were allowed to fester and from deficient care, the suit claims.

The awful conditions were exacerbated during the pandemic, with management trying to hide COVID cases and not enforcing proper quarantine and isolation protocols, James alleged.

The facility saw 75 residents die from COVID-19 over the course of the pandemic, according to an AG spokesperson.

The sparse staff was forced to work even longer hours and while sick with COVID-19, and were not being provided with proper personal protective equipment. Staffers who had fevers were told to go outside for an hour and then retake their temperatures, James claimed.

The Villages facility.
The Villages Of Orleans County

The owners also skimped on quality medical staff by allowing nursing assistants do tasks they were trained or licensed for, the AG said.

Despite being dangerously understaffed – having just four employees working during one overnight shift – the owners still attempted to increase the number of residents at the facility, James said.

The owners bought the nursing home facility in January 2015, taking it from a five-star Medicare and Medicaid rated facility to just one-star four months later in April of that year, according to the AG’s lawsuit filed in Orleans County Supreme Court Tuesday.

A photo of a bedsore on a resident's back.
New York State Attorney General

From 2015 through 2021, the facility received $86.4 million in funding – including from Medicare and Medicaid – meant for upkeep and quality care of residents.

But the owners looted $18.6 million of these funds – or 20% of its operating budget – by paying “inflated” rent to their company, Telegraph Realty, and administrative fees to another business – which eventually netted them millions of dollars each, the suit alleges.

They “did not reinvest these funds to improve the building, operations or quality of life and care for the residents,” the filing charges. And because of this alleged fraud, they were left “in a precarious position to face the COVID-19 pandemic,” the lawsuit states.

The residents, meanwhile, were forced to live in disgusting and unsanitary conditions with dirt, mold, and insects inside the building that has been left in a state of disrepair, the filing claims.

There were broken medical devices and HVAC equipment and they lacked proper “levels of cleaning and hygiene supplies,” the suit states.

One resident came to the facility in 2020 with a fractured leg and became suicidal, prompting an outside psychologist to order staff to check on her every 30 minutes. But the staff failed to monitor her and she died 20 days later. The facility then didn’t report her death to the Department of Health as is required, the suit claims.

Facebook post about the building that includes photos of rust, moisture damage and peeling paint.
New York State Attorney General

Another resident landed in The Villages with severe bedsores in January 2021, yet the staff didn’t take proper care of the wounds and gave her unnecessary medications – including psychotropic drugs – and she died seven months later on July 13, the suit claims.

Margarette Volkmar, the wife of a Villages resident – who has since died – described her disturbing experience with the home on one New Year’s Day when she called repeatedly for hours and was told again and again that her husband was sleeping.

Volkmar eventually demanded staffers put her husband on video where she saw him “laying on a bed with no sheets, no blankets, no clothing,” she said at a press conference Tuesday. “He had on a diaper.”

“That’s how he lay in 14-degree weather,” she said.

Darlene Stevens recalled her mentally disabled 59-year-old brother entering The Villages weighing 169 pounds — and months later being transferred to a hospital having withered away to a mere 125 pounds.

“He could no longer speak,” Stevens said. “He was left to starve to death … he was overmedicated.”

“It was a horrible situation,” Stevens said, adding that her brother died at the hospital.

Vicki Juckett said her frail mother is currently at The Villages where she sprained her ankle after the first day landing n the home with a fractured pelvis. Since then, she has endured “massive skin injuries” like rashes and bedsores.

“I don’t want her to suffer anymore,” Juckett said.

James said she is asking a judge to force the owners to return the funds they allegedly diverted.

She also wants a receiver, financial monitor and health care monitor to be installed to ensure the facility is run properly. And James wants a judge to block the home to stop taking new patients temporarily and for three of the owners to be removed from their posts running The Villages.

The Villages didn’t return messages seeking comment Tuesday.