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Financial Exploitation

Nursing Home Staff Steal Thousands from Residents

An employee of Vicksburg Convalescent Center, a Mississippi nursing home, used a resident’s trust fund to buy a pair of $100 designer jeans.

When an administrator noticed the unlikely purchase, she reviewed other receipts related to the resident’s fund and found purchases for jackets, designer boots, hair dryers, and makeup—things an elderly nursing home resident was unlikely to buy.

Lee Ray Martin, 38, an office staffer at Vicksburg Convalescent Center in Vicksburg, Miss., and an affiliated nursing home across town, was charged in 2012 with billing $101,000 in personal expenses to the trust accounts of 83 residents at the two facilities. Martin pleaded guilty in August to multiple counts of exploitation of vulnerable adults. More than $101,000 was taken from from the trust funds of 83 patients at the two businesses.

The suspected employee, Lee Ray Martin, (above) was arrested and charged with billing $101,000 in personal expenses to the trust accounts of 83 residents at two facilities. She pleaded guilty to multiple counts of exploitation of vulnerable adults.  (Photo credit: Alexandria Town Talk.)

This incident highlights a risk that is well known to the elderly healthcare industry: elderly trust fund fraud.

Trust funds are often set up when a resident’s family requests the nursing facility to manage the resident’s money. Most nursing homes only have one account for all residents. Residents’ social security, Medicare, and Medicaid income goes into a general pool of funds. This makes it easy for criminals like Lee to take advantage of residents’ financial assets.

An investigation into other similar instances of elderly exploitation revealed more than 1,500 recent cases where nursing homes were cited by state and federal officials for mishandling the funds.

Employees or administrators often took outrageous sums of money from trust accounts. In hundreds more cases, nursing facilities failed to pay interest on the funds, could not account for their holdings, or did not carry adequate insurance.

Other than the resident and the resident’s family diligently watching the trust funds, week to week, there are few safe guards preventing exploitation or abuse from happening.

More than 30% of such cases involved theft of more than ten thousand dollars. The lack of reasonable safeguards allow trust fund plunderers to continue their crimes for months, if not years, without detection.

Few states have any mandated independent audits of nursing facilities’ trust fund management. Additionally, most nursing home inspections focus on the health and safety of residents, leaving little money for cases of financial abuse. Though most all government officials believe more oversight is needed.

For more, see articles published by the Clarksville Leaf Chronicle and the Desert Sun.

The question is – who’s paying attention to this employee?  Responsible care facilities don’t steal from the people they are supposed to care for. They don’t hire employees who steal from the people they are supposed to care for. When nursing homes and other care facilities fail to hire, train, and supervise their employees, they are not being responsible. Bad things happen when those we trust fail to meet their fundamental responsibilities.  Such irresponsibility puts vulnerable residents at risk of catastrophic harm.

The Kosieradzki • Smith Law Firm represents clients in cases involving catastrophic injury caused by nursing homes and other care facilities that fail to provide proper care. If you believe your loved one has been harmed due neglect or abuse in a nursing home, take action and contact the Kosieradzki • Smith Law Firm online or call us toll-free at (877) 552-2873 to set up a no-cost, no-obligation consultation.