The administrator at the Vicksburg Convalescent Center knew something was wrong when she saw the receipt: a $90 debit from a resident’s trust fund account for a pair of designer jeans.
Of all the elderly residents at the 100-bed nursing home, Amy Brown figured, this one was especially unlikely to spend his savings on pricey pants.
Both of his legs had been amputated.
Brown pored over the trust fund books. There were receipts to back up every charge, so audits had found nothing amiss. But she spotted “receipts for things I knew the residents wouldn’t buy” — North Face jackets and Ugg boots, hair dryers and makeup, even a baseball bat. “I felt sick,” Brown recalls.
Suspicions fell on Lee Martin, an office staffer at the Mississippi facility and an affiliated nursing home across town. Martin was charged in 2012 with billing $101,000 in personal expenses to the trust accounts of 83 residents at the two facilities. She pleaded guilty in August to multiple counts of exploitation of vulnerable adults.
“These (residents) are vulnerable; the nursing home is supposed to take care of them,” says Phyllis Foster, 67, whose 89-year-old mother-in-law had funds embezzled by Martin. “I was surprised there wasn’t more oversight.”
Thousands of residents in U.S. nursing homes and other long-term care institutions for the aged and disabled have had their personal savings raided or mismanaged after relying on the facilities to safeguard the money in special trust fund accounts, a USA TODAY investigation shows.
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Thefts from nursing home trust funds target the elderly