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Attorney General Lockyer Announces First-Ever Civil Enforcement Action Against California Nursing Home Owner-Operators
(LOS ANGELES) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer today announced the department's first-ever civil enforcement action against the owner and corporate operator of four nursing homes for patient neglect and poor quality care.
"Less than a year ago, we filed the first-ever criminal enforcement action against the owners of a Los Angeles nursing home for elder abuse for embezzlement, theft and conspiracy," Lockyer said. "Now, we are bringing the first civil enforcement action filed in the history of the Department of Justice against the owners of a chain of nursing homes where more than 100 patients suffered harm. Investigators found over two dozen different types of violations."
Lockyer said that these cases reflect the priority given upon assuming office in 1999 to investigating and prosecuting elder abuse.
The civil complaint against Rocky Lemon and TLC Health Care, Inc., was filed this week in Riverside County Superior Court. The complaint alleges 37 different categories of violations of state and federal regulations which resulted in serious patient harm, such as major bed sores, dehydration, malnutrition, injuries from falls requiring surgery and inadequate care resulting in poor personal hygiene.
The facilities involved are Crescent Nursing and Rehabilitation Center of Indio in Riverside County, where conditions have improved under new owners; Crescent Care Center of Yucca Valley and Crescent Alzheimer's Care Center, both in San Bernardino County; and Lodi Health Care Center in San Joaquin County.
"As public guardians, we have a responsibility to protect frail and elderly Californians who entrust their care to nursing homes," Lockyer said. "The civil remedies being sought hold the nursing home owners accountable for poor quality care and would result in court-ordered improvements to protect current and future nursing home residents."
The civil complaint initially seeks $2 million in civil penalties and restitution of no less than $50,000 to the Medi-Cal program for failure to provide adequate care, treatment and services to elderly patients at four nursing homes. The complaint also seeks injunctive relief to ensure that Lemon and TLC Health Care, Inc., raise the level of care, treatment and services. The complaint may be amended upon the finding of new evidence of violations during discovery proceedings.
Upon assuming office, Lockyer 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," 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 criminal complaint filed last May, 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. Among the victims of embezzlement was a World War II Nazi concentration camp survivor who lived at Orchard Gables. The case is pending trial.