Elders who are convalescing in nursing homes or who require home care have lots on their minds. It is certainly a stressful time for many. One thing they should never have to worry about is theft. Unfortunately, elderly and bed ridden patients are a prime target of thieves.
In this post we examine several recent patient theft prosecutions in the Garden State. There, prosecutors have charged four people in thefts from two different elderly patients. The perpetrators of these crimes may surprise some.
Jersey City Home Care Patient Theft Arrest
A certified nurse aide (CNA) and the CNA’s mother in law were indicted for stealing money from a 75-year-old home care patient in Jersey City. Police say the thefts are tied to an earlier theft of the patient’s checkbook last April. Over several months, a total of $34,100 was taken from the patient’s checking account.
Tamerlane Amon, age 38, and his mother-in-law, Marilyn Duran, were each indicted on one count of conspiracy, one count of theft and five counts of identity theft. Duran was also charged with attempted theft for unsuccessfully trying to cash two other checks belonging to the resident. The charges each carry a maximum penalty of 5 years per count.
According to court records, Amon worked at Alaris Health. While caring for a homebound patient, Amon allegedly stole the man’s checkbook. He later forged checks which is mother-in-law later cashed at local banks.
In announcing the indictments, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said, "Financial exploitation of the elderly is a growing problem that will not be tolerated in New Jersey. These indictments underscore our commitment to protecting our vulnerable senior citizens from financial predators who view them as easy marks."
Couple Steals from Burlington County Nursing Home Resident
On the opposite end of the state, prosecutors charged a husband and wife for stealing from the wife’s bedridden godfather. Mythi Ly-McKinney and her husband Todd McKinney were indicted on charges of conspiracy, forgery, theft by deception and attempted theft by deception. Each charge carries a potential penalty of 5 years in prison and a $15,000 fine. Ms. McKinney was also charged with 17 counts of forgery.
Court records say that Ms. McKinney managed the finances of her 79-year-old godfather. While the victim was living at a skilled nursing facility, Ly-McKinney allegedly stole the man’s checkbook and then wrote numerous checks to herself and her husband’s business.
Prosecutors say the duo netted $49,500 from the theft.
How to Prevent Patient Thefts
Thefts from elderly patients and the homebound are rarely committed by strangers. The two most common groups of people committing these crimes are caregivers and family members. We can see examples of both in the two recent arrests described above.
Often these crimes are never reported. Sometimes they are not reported because the victim is simply too frail, weak or confused to know what is happening. Other times they are so lonely that they keep quiet for fear of being alone. And sometimes the victims are so dependent on caregivers that they are afraid to say anything. They fear that that they may be denied food or medicine or abused if they seek help.
To prevent these crimes, it is important to involve as many family members, friends and church members as possible in the care and support of loved ones. The more people looking out for the patient’s best interests the less likely that someone will attempt a theft and the more likely that such a theft will be reported or discovered.
Nursing Homes and Home Care Agencies Liable for Thefts
It is always possible to file a lawsuit against the person engaged in stealing. If the money has been spent, however, getting it back can become difficult. We understand the theft alone can be quite traumatizing; therefore, filing a lawsuit can be even more stressful for some… especially if the person who did the stealing is a family member.
Our elder financial abuse lawyers are sensitive to the needs of elderly victims and the dynamics of filing lawsuits against family members. We will help minimize the stresses involved in the litigation process. That means carefully explaining what is happening at every stage and involving supportive family members and friends.
If the person committing the theft is an employee of a home healthcare agency or a nursing home, recovering the stolen money becomes a bit easier. Although many insurance policies do not cover thefts by guardians or caregivers, nursing homes and home health agencies still have legal duties to their patients. These duties include:
- A duty to properly screen and train workers (aides, nurses, etc.),
- a duty to monitor and supervise their workforce, and
- a duty to protect their patients from harm.
Whether or not a nursing home’s insurance covers the bad acts of their employees, the nursing home or home health agency still can be liable for the actions of their employees and agents.
Legitimate nursing homes and home healthcare agencies are often just as stressed about litigation. We understand that some of our clients want to avoid testifying against someone they know or making trips to the court. Remember, however, that the employers of these bad apples are equally worried about legal fees and the bad publicity that can surround these cases. Usually they don’t want the negative publicity of a protracted court trial. That means we can often settle cases involving nursing homes and home care agencies without the need for appearing in court.
Victim of Patient Theft?
If you are or were homebound or living in an assisted living facility, rehabilitation hospital or nursing home and were the victim of patient theft, contact us at the numbers below.
Were you or a loved one the victim of a patient theft? Call us today at 833-201-1555 (toll free) or Connect Online. Our elder law attorneys are happy to explain your options and determine whether you have a case. The cases we accept are usually handled on a contingent fee basis meaning that we don’t collect for our legal fees unless you collect. All consultations are without cost or obligation.
*Please note that our minimum loss in most instances is $1 million. In addition to patient theft cases we also prosecute will contests and pursue cases and claims against fiduciaries, trustees, brokerage firms, banks and other financial institutions.