MASSENA – A former business office employee at the Highland Nursing Home who was charged with stealing over $18,000 from various accounts, including the residents spending trust fund, at the facility while she was employed there, has been sentenced to probation.
Investigators from the Office of the Attorney Generals Medical Fraud Control Unit charged Wendy Vice, 45, of 597 County Route 40, Massena, with felony counts of third-degree grand larceny, second-degree forgery and first-degree falsifying business records.
She pleaded guilty to a reduced count of petit larceny, a misdemeanor, in a plea bargain agreement. Vice had admitted she had a gambling issue at the time of the money was stolen.
Massena Town Justice Gerald P. Sharlow placed Vice on probation for three years - the recommendation of the Attorney Generals Office - with a stipulation she continue her treatment for a gambling problem. She was also ordered to pay $50 to submit a sample of her DNA to the state database. She made full restitution.
Nursing home residents entrust a great deal of control of their lives – physically, financially and emotionally – to the staff members of these facilities, who are obligated to honor that trust, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said.
Highland Nursing Home detected the crime, reported it and recovered the losses; but I encourage all nursing homes and other residential facilities to maintain safeguards to prevent such thefts. My office will keep fighting to ensure that those who take advantage of vulnerable nursing home residents will be held accountable, he said.
Vice stole the funds while working in the business office of the Highland Nursing Home, where her duties included receiving and depositing funds into the facilitys various accounts, including the Resident Trust Account. She made false entries into the facilitys books and forged names on receipts. Upon discovery by the facility, Vice admitted her wrongful acts and repaid over $10,000 of the $18,000 she stole. Highland Nursing Home reimbursed all of the patients whose funds were wrongfully taken.
Court documents indicate an audit conducted by the Medicare Fraud Control Unit revealed $18,208.76 had been stolen from the various accounts between Aug. 2, 2011 and Aug. 2, 2012, and Vice had entered false entries into the business records to hide the theft of the money.
Investigators said Vice forged the names of Pendra J. King and Lisa Evans on petty cash receipts. They said Vice also made false entries into various account records and forged the names of residents on petty cash receipts.
Vices duties at the nursing home included managing a series of accounts including the sunshine account, the residents trust account, the petty cash fund and the operating account.
This position gave the defendant full access to cash and checks as they came into the various accounts within the facility, court documents noted.
The case was investigated by Special Investigator Scott Petucci and the Medicaid Fraud Control Units (MFCU) Rochester Regional Chief Investigator William Falk. The case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Paul R. Berry of the MFCU Syracuse Regional Office. MFCU is led by Acting Director Amy Held. The Division of Criminal Justice is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General Kelly Donovan.