State Attorney General’s Office is suing Orleans County nursing home after years of neglect and fraud allegations

BUFFALO, N.Y. — New York Attorney General Letitia James announced on Tuesday that her office is suing a nursing home in Albion, Orleans County after years of allegations that the facility neglected its residents.

The lawsuit against The Villages of Orleans Health and Rehabilitation Center also includes allegations of financial fraud. The AG’s office says the nursing home’s owners took advantage of the state’s Medicaid program to increase their personal profits, rather than use those funds for the intended purposes of staffing and patient care. Attorney General James made the announcement while in Buffalo.

“Every individual deserves to live out their golden years in comfort and with dignity,” James said. “Yet the abject failure of The Villages and its owners to uphold their duty under the law caused residents to suffer inhumane treatment, neglect, and harm.

News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke has been investigating The Villages since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

James says the owners put together an elaborate scheme in order to line their own pockets with millions in profit, funded with your tax dollars through Medicaid payments. It’s money that legally should have been invested back into the facility and to the more than 100 residents it serves.

At the conference, people whose family members were or still are at The Villages shared their stories.

Margarette Volkmar, whose Husband was a resident, said: “My husband was laying on a bed with no sheets no blankets, no clothing, he had on a diaper and that’s how he laid.”

Darlene Stevens, whose brother was a resident, said: “He was left to starve to death, his deterioration was due partly to medication he was over-medicated he could hardly function eventually didn’t speak he couldn’t feed himself.”

Vicki Juckett, whose mother is a resident, said: “I don’t want her to suffer anymore there needs to be changes not just for my mom but for everybody in a facility like that.”

The AG says the owners set up a convoluted shell game of sorts. She said they rented their own property for well over market value, hiring a property management company they partially owned–all in an attempt to maximize how much Medicaid and Medicare money they could keep for themselves.

In the end, it was the residents who suffered. “Residents were neglected and repeatedly subjected to inhumane treatment, some died. they were forced to live under horrific conditions,” James said.

The AG says the owners got away with their scheme because for years the villages hid their wrongdoing from the Department of Health and from the Department of Health Inspectors but the pandemic brought it to light.

The AG’s lawsuit seeks to prevent The Villages from accepting any new patients for the time being. She wants both a financial receiver and an independent patient care expert brought in and the owners to step down. She’s also going after them for millions in what she calls ill-gotten gains.

Now, different members of this ownership group have stakes in other New York nursing homes. This may just be the start. The AG says more lawsuits could be coming in the coming weeks.

Some allegations mentioned in the lawsuit include:

  • A woman was admitted to The Villages in January 2021 with a Stage II bed sore which was not treated for more than two weeks. Six months later, in June 2021, she suffered from two Stage III bed sores and an external wound care consultant ordered a new treatment, which The Villages did not implement until a week later. By July, both wounds had advanced to the point of being “unstageable.” A friend of the woman told OAG she received more than 1,000 texts asking for help with basic necessities like using the restroom or getting food and water. One text reported she had been “lying in a dirty diaper for hours,” and another lamented, “I just need a glass of water.” The Villages gave the resident psychotropic medications for severe anxiety, though there was no such diagnosis in her medical records. She was found unresponsive on July 13 and sent to the hospital, where she died.
  • A woman admitted to The Villages in January 2020 for rehabilitation of a broken leg soon began refusing her food and medication and spoke of wanting to die. An external psychological consult determined she was at high-risk for self-harm, and ordered staff check on her every 30 minutes. The Villages failed to monitor the woman, and she was found dead in early February 2020, less than a month after she was admitted. Her death was not reported to the New York State Department of Health (DOH) as required by law. 
  • A man was admitted to The Villages in November 2020 to rehabilitate after a leg amputation, so he could gain enough strength to use his prosthetic and live independently. During his three months at The Villages, he had only a handful of physical therapy sessions, during which he was often left to sit without exercise or assistance. Due to his amputation, he required help with cleaning and caring for himself, but staff frequently failed to change his diaper in a timely manner, leaving him to often spend hours sitting in his own urine. He now resides in a different facility and is making great progress.

You can watch James’ full conference on the lawsuit here: