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(LOS ANGELES) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer today announced the department's first-ever enforcement action brought against a nursing home and its owner for alleged elder abuse and Medi-Cal fraud. At the same time, Lockyer announced enforcement action against a Glendale adult day care center for allegedly defrauding the state Medi-Cal program.
Criminal complaints were filed in Los Angeles Superior Court against Orchard Gables Convalescent Hospital in Hollywood and its owner; and against Happy Days Adult Health Care Center and its owners and operators.
"As public guardians, we have a responsibility to protect frail and elderly Californians who entrust their care to nursing homes," Lockyer said. "By bringing the Department of Justice's first-ever enforcement action against a nursing home and its owner, I am sending a clear message that we will aggressively prosecute those who betray the trust placed upon them."
Lockyer, upon assuming office last year, dedicated 20 new investigators and prosecutors to pursuing elder abuse cases. The criminal complaints against the nursing home and adult day care center are the first to be filed by the Attorney General's Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse. Lockyer also launched "Operation Guardians" last month, a new partnership of state, local and federal agencies working to combat the abuse and neglect in nursing homes. Under Operation Guardians, surprise visits are being made to nursing homes to check for health and safety violations, as well as encourage all facilities in the state to deliver quality care all the time, not just before an anticipated inspection.
In the complaint against Orchard Gables, nursing home owner, Regina Mizrahie, and the owner's daughter, Lily Mizrahie, were charged with elder abuse, felony embezzlement and defrauding the Medi-Cal program. The owner's son, Leon Mizrahie, also was charged with elder abuse, embezzlement, conspiracy to commit a crime and receiving stolen property. The Mizrahies, all of Los Angeles, were arrested and charged Tuesday.
The complaint alleges that over $40,000 was taken by the Mizrahie from patient Betty Cahn, a World War II Nazi concentration camp survivor who lived at Orchard Gables. According to the complaint, Cahn's monthly reparations and pension payment from the Republic of Germany, as well as US Social Security checks, were diverted to other uses instead of being placed as required into a patient trust account. At the time of her death on May 8, 1997, Orchard Gables reported only $217 in Cahn's patient trust account.
Audits of records seized by the Attorney General's Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse determined that Cahn should have had at least $39,750 in her patient trust account. The complaint alleges that Cahn's reparation checks were diverted into Leon Mizrahie's auto body repair shop's bank account, and to the nursing home's general account. The nursing home is accused of using the funds diverted into the general account to purchase items for the facility, including a big screen television, medical equipment and hygiene products for use by other nursing home residents.
The complaint further alleges that the defendants billed Cahn as a private-pay resident, while being kept in a semi-private room and having the state Medi-Cal program pay for her care. The nursing home, its owner and owner's daughter also were charged with filing hundreds of false and fraudulent Medi-Cal claims for patient services totaling more than $80,000.
In the complaint against Fine Gold Health Center, Inc., which does business as Happy Days Adult Day Health Care, the facility's owners and operators, Ellen Zuzo and Gary Dubin, were charged with grand theft, conspiracy to defraud the Medi-Cal program and submitting false Medi-Cal claims. The complaint alleges that facility and adult day care owners submitted over 100 false and fraudulent Medi-Cal claims for over $20,000 from September 1999 through March 2000. Zuzo and Dubin, both of Los Angeles, were arrested and charged Tuesday.
Orchard Gables is a 59-bed skilled nursing facility where over half the residents are over age 65 and the remaining residents are convalescing patients. Happy Days Adult Day Health Care is used by as many as 60 individuals with many Medi-Cal beneficiaries recruited from nearby skilled nursing and board and care facilities.
Medi-Cal is a state program that pays for essential medical care and services for qualifying indigent, elderly and disabled Californians. Adult day health care centers, overseen by the state Department of Aging, may be reimbursed $63.62 daily for Medi-Cal patients who attend the facility for a minimum of four hours a day.