Are Nursing Home Thieves Defrauding Your Loved One?
Jeff Rossen, NBC’s national correspondent for consumer interests, recently reported on an unfortunate pattern of crimes that has pervaded assisted living facilities across the U.S.: defrauding the elderly, particularly nursing home residents.
Several stories have come to light exposing the tactics of some nursing home employees who misappropriate or downright steal the funds from residents’ accounts, in many cases lifting upwards of several tens of thousands of dollars from them.
Leo Foster and his family are victims of nursing home theft and fraud—his mother was exploited while a resident at the Vicksburg Convalescence Center in Vicksburg, Miss.
“It made me feel sick at my stomach. It just didn’t dawn on me that someone would be so low as to steal from a vulnerable adult,” said Leo’s wife, Phyllis.
Leo and Phyllis discovered that the office coordinator at the nursing home, Lee Ray Martin, had been stealing from Leo’s mother, and after the Fosters investigated they discovered that between 12 and 15 cash withdrawals had been made from Leo’s mother’s account.
Leo Foster’s mother was not her only victim, it seemed, as Martin was further accused of embezzling over $100,000 out of the accounts of 83 different residents at the nursing home. In August Martin pleaded guilty to 29 counts of exploitation of a vulnerable person, and to one count of conspiracy.
Oddly, there are no universal background checks or regulations in hiring employees in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, which might explain the rash of recent issues. The most alarming factor in the Fosters’ story is that it could happen to almost anyone with a loved one in a nursing home. Even more frightening, Lee Ray Martin could, hypothetically, find a job at a similar institution in another state without any hesitation or problem due to the lack of regulations within the industry.
Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood offered his opinion on the nature of an embezzler, saying simply that if they have done it once, “they’re gonna do it again.”
In order to protect your loved ones while they are in an elder care assisted living facility or nursing home, request to see monthly statements from any account that is being handled for them. This way, it is easier to spot discrepancies and correct them. Nursing homes are required to carry insurance for an occasion that money has in fact gone missing, so it is likely that any missing funds can be returned.