A negligent nursing home owner has been convicted of Medicare and Medicaid fraud, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). Not unsurprisingly, conditions for residents at three Georgia facilities run by the owner and his wife, were simply deplorable.
Owner, George Dayln Houser and his wife and accomplice, Rhonda Washington Houser were convicted and pled guilty of defrauding both government agencies in an investigation that involved the FBI, the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Inspector General, and the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) Criminal Investigation. George Houser was convicted this month; Rhonda pled guilty last year.
The FBI cited insufficient food, minimal air conditioning and heat, severely leaking roofs that required numerous barrels and plastic sheets to catch water, dumpsters overflowing with trash, flies and rodents running rampant, and significant mold and mildew, to name just some. Shockingly, the Housers received a massive $32.9 million in Medicare and Medicaid payments for resident care; most of that money was pocketed and not used to adequately run the facilities.
As is typical, Medicare and Medicaid payments are made in exchange for a safe and clean physical environment, nutritional meals, medical care, and other assistance, noted the FBI. When complaints began mounting from residents, family, staff, and vendors, an investigation was initiated by FBI’s Atlanta office in collaboration with HHS’ Office of Inspector General, and the IRS’s Criminal Investigation. The evidence gathered and introduced at trial revealed that Houser’s resident services were so deficient that the judge found them “worthless.” The precedent-setting case, said the FBI, represented the first time in history that a defendant was federally convicted at trial for submitting payment claims for worthless services.
Houser did not maintain a nursing staff sufficient to properly care for its residents. Staffing shortages began after Houser began writing bad checks to employees, causing many to resign. Houser also withheld health insurance premiums from staff, allowing insurance lapses for non-payment, which left many with large, unpaid medical bills. Houser also did not pay food, pharmacy, nursing, and clinical laboratory service providers and medical waste and trash disposal vendors. Sometimes, employees would buy milk, bread, and other groceries so residents would not starve; would bring in their own nursing and cleaning supplies; and would wash residents’ laundry in commercial laundromats or in their own homes.
Meanwhile, the Housers were spending the government’s money on hotel real estate investments, new homes, vacations, luxury cars, new furniture, and nannies for their child. Houser even paid an ex-wife a nursing home salary, although she never worked for the firm, and bought her million-dollar home in Atlanta.
“The level of greed and lack of compassion for others that was seen in this case reflect the very reason why the FBI, in working with its many and varied law enforcement partners, dedicates vast investigative resources to combating health care fraud,” said Atlanta Special Agent in Charge, Brian Lamkin. “And, in this case, we were especially happy to see that all three nursing homes were eventually shut down by the state, and residents moved into better living quarters to get the care and compassion they deserve,” the FBI said.
We recently wrote that the national law firm, Parker Waichman LLP, filed a nursing home neglect lawsuit against Grandell Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, a Long Island, New York facility. That lawsuit was filed on behalf of a Nassau County who woman suffered severe and permanent injuries from falls associated with negligence on the part of Grandell Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, which is also being charged with violations of the New York Public Health Law and negligence and gross negligence. Parker Waichman has long been dedicated to protecting the rights of nursing home abuse and negligence victims and has, among other measures to protect this vulnerable demographic, prepared a video blog.