A report from Ashville’s Citizen Times explores the growing trend of medication theft. Drug arrests rose 400% from 1998 to 2009. Ken Razza, an agent who works with the drug division, said that he estimates the actual occurrence of medication theft to be twice that of cases reported. Prescription pain pills are the prime target for theft because of their preferred use among addicts and their high street value.
Henry Hensley is a 56 year old home resident. He’s lived in six nursing homes and five assisted living facilities since 2009. He has multiple sclerosis and pain from an old war wound. He tells reporters that his pain medications are consistently stolen. Hensley tells us that when the resident reports the crime they get transferred to another facility. This in effect becomes a punishment which deters reporting of the crime because of the work in transferring facilities. People don’t report the crime because they don’t want to have to leave.
Some homes are taking precautionary measures to ensure the safety of their medications, like Aston Park Skilled Nursing Facility. They have strict protocol in place which helps to ensure that inventory is accurate. However, other homes simply have a med tech who passes out medications. This person is usually not a nurse, and has received a few weeks training. With a lack of thorough investigation into employees and a lax attitude toward medications, this problem will continue to grow until more homes take the Aston Park approach.
Another nursing home employee is accused of attempting to steal $10,200 from a resident. Stephanie Benodin, who was hired to assist the elderly woman in day to day activities at the Tuttle Center, a Port Washington nursing home, was caught when she attempted to deposit a stolen check into her mother’s bank account. The victim went into the hospital, leaving her purse in her room at the Tuttle Center. Benodin made a check out to her mother and then attempted to deposit it. The bank informed the woman’s family that the check had been returned for insufficient funds. The woman’s daughter turned this information over to the police, who then arrested the Benodin. Police reported that she had admitted to stealing the check during an interrogation. She pled not guilty in court though. See article at The Examiner.
Thefts from nursing home residents seems to have increeased dramatically lately. A manager at a St. Petersburg home in Florida stole $800 from five residents. She was charged with grand theft and released $2000 bail. In addition, a Connecticut nursing home employee pled guilty to stealing $140,000 from a patient fund. The former employee pled guilty to the estimated amount, but it’s unsure whether that amount is accurate, or a conservative estimate. See articles at Tampa Bay Times and Republican American.
These three nursing home employees represent the type of threat that faces nursing home residents. Your loved ones are vulnerable when they’re surrounded by people like these. It would seem that hiring practices need to be based on stricter guidelines and that family members should be cautious and alert with regards to nursing home residents’ finances.
Below are two more incidents where nursing home employees were arrested for stealing from residents. This is a common problem in nursing homes and managment never believes the residents or investigates the complaints. Many residents tell me that management’s failure to investigate upsets them more than the theft itself.
Rantoul Press reported the arrest of Shiquita Sutton, an employee of Canterbury Ridge assisted-living facility, for stealing from a resident’s room. An Urbana police report said over the last couple of weeks, several residents in their 80s and 90s reported cash missing from their rooms. On Jan. 24, police set up a hidden camera in the room of a resident who is often out of her room. They placed a $20 bill on top of a dresser, and two days later, Sutton was recorded taking the bill and putting it in her pocket. Police said she denied taking the cash.
KAIT8 reported the arrest of Crystal Land, an employee of Walnut Ridge Nursing Home, for stealing from residents. Land was interviewed in connection with allegations made by several residents that had money stolen from them. She worked for the Walnut Ridge Nursing and Rehab. She admitted during the interview that she spent money from residents, shopping at multiple businesses and paying some of her own debts. She also admitted to taking funds multiple times a week.
The Houston Chronicle reported another nursing home incident uncovered because of a hidden camera. Dorcas Gbenda was arrested at The Gardens of Bellaire and was taken from the property in handcuffs. The camera was installed by the resident’s relatives after management ignored their complaints that items were missing from his room.
In an article on the MidHudsonNews.com website, there was a report of the arrest of Robin Nash, a nurse’s aide at the Sullivan County Adult Care Center in Liberty, NY. A two-month investigation discovered the “theft of narcotic Fentanyl pain patches from cancer patients.” In June of 2011, nursing home supervisors noticed that several patients were missing Fentanyl patches, which contain a potent pain killer known as Fentanyl that is generally prescribed to cancer patients. It is absorbed by the body when placed on the skin. Medical staff could not locate many of the patches which they had applied to patients, so a police investigation was initiated.
Suspicion soon came to rest on Robin Nash, and her guilt manifested itself while she was being questioned in the detectives’ office. She tried to swallow a piece of a Fentanyl patch that she had on her person, and then she admitted to stealing approximately 25 Fentanyl patches over a two-year period. She was charged with “larceny, criminal possession of a controlled substance, and tampering with evidence.” It was stated by Sheriff Michael Schiff that this “investigation illustrates the seriousness of our society’s prescription drug abuse problem.” It also illustrates the problem with staff at our nation’s nursing homes.
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In an article by Peter Rebhahn of the Juneau County Star-Times in Wisconsin, it was reported that Jennifer L. Phillips allegedly stole over $220,000 from an elderly man residing at the Golden Living Center in Wisconsin Dells. Phillips gained power of attorney over Robert J. Flynn .
She was charged with “felony theft of an amount greater than $10,000”. It was discovered that her withdrawals from Flynn’s own bank account achieved the grand total of $224,465. Prosecutors claimed that Phillips sold Flynn’s home on March 23, 2012, and proceeded to go on a shopping spree with the profits. Part of this spree included her purchase of a new home at the price of $137,000. Her exploits were noticed when the Sauk County Department of Human Services began to hunt for information after noticing that Mr. Flynn had a very costly bill amounting to $27,452.
Phillips admitted to a detective from the Juneau County Sheriff’s Office that she also bought “two vehicles, a boat, a television and a bed, and that not all the items were purchased for Flynn.”
The Duluth News Tribune reported that a Minnesota nurse was recently found to have stolen hundreds of painkillers from 34 residents of a Ecumen nursing home and short-term rehabilitation center. The thefts, which occurred undetected over a five-moth period, included the high power painkiller, oxycodone, among other drugs and totaled over 760 pills. The stealing was only brought to the attention of the facility after a resident who was not administered her oxycodone complained that she was “having extreme pain” without it. It was found that the nurse who was taking the pills was signing out the pills without ever administering them to her residents.
It is maddening to think that almost three dozen residents could have suffered in pain without their medicine while this selfish human being stole their pills. This absolutely calls into question the quality of employees nursing homes are employing and management’s supervision. Even worse, this incident of pill philfering is just one among many as can been seen by the increase in the number of drug thefts in Minnesota. In hospitals and nursing homes across the state the number of reported cases has increased by twice the rate they were in 2005. “The trend reflects what experts say is a nationwide surge of prescription drug abuse — in many cases by the very people entrusted with caring for patients.”
In Greenwood, Mississippi, a Leflore County grand jury has indicted a former employee at Golden Age Nursing Home in Greenwood on seven counts of illegally obtaining drugs while on duty. The Greenwood Commonwealth reported that 46-year-old Stephanie Ray Barton is accused of taking painkillers from residents. If convicted, the licensed practical nurse faces up to 35 years in prison.
Barton is accused of stealing Lorcet, a prescription painkiller containing hydrocodone, by signing for the drug on patients’ records and then keeping it.
KSDK.com reported the sentencing of Ashley Michelle Sweeney’s after stealing from nursing home residents by stripping rings from patients’ fingers at a Veterans Nursing Home in Roanoke, VA. Incredible. Stealing from elderly veterans!
Sweeney was sentenced to 24 years in prison, with all but 5 suspended after testimony in which she admitted that she had pawned four Veterans’ wedding bands to support her drug addiction. She might only serve a couple of years. Sweeney has been ordered to never work as a nurse or nurses’ assistant again. Who would hire her?
Brittney Heather Cook, a co-worker of Sweeney’s who worked as an aide at the same Nursing home, has also been implicated in the property thefts, and is scheduled for sentencing soon.
Boston.com reported that Chief U.S. District Judge Mary M. Lisi doubled the damages against Antonio Giordano. The nursing home executive must repay $12 million to the federal government for diverting money for personal benefit causing two nursing homes to fail. Giordano is in prison on conspiracy and embezzlement charges. Judge Lisi increased the damages to deter future violations by other individuals who raid publicly funded projects.