State: Caregivers caught stealing from patients

State cracking down on nursing home licenses after thefts

Many of us have to put our trust in caregivers and nursing home facilities to look after our aging love ones.  That's why this is the ultimate betrayal: workers accused of stealing from those in their care.

The state is cracking down on their licenses, but we can all do our part to protect those most vulnerable from crooks posing as caregivers.

Investigators say the best cure to stop stealing caregivers is to catch them.

That's what the son of an 82-year-old woman did, setting up a camera in his mom's room after hundreds of dollars started disappearing.

Martin County Sheriff’s Office deputies say it shows Serafina Frahm, the director of The Pointe at Ocean Boulevard, stealing from the woman.  The son hides in the closet, then pops out to confront her.

10News found in the past two months, the Florida Department of Health issued dozens of emergency orders,  temporarily taking away the licenses of health care workers accused of putting patients in danger.

Records show two Bay area certified nursing assistants got busted.

Jennifer Brisco is accused of stealing a 95-year-old woman's credit card at Palm Garden Health and Rehab in Largo and racking up $1,400 in purchases.

Investigators say CNA Natasha Tucker pocketed an 89-year-old woman's credit card at Cypress Palms Assisted Living in Largo and went on a spending spree: making thousands of dollars in insurance and personal payments, and fast food and restaurant runs.

It can also be happening in your home.  A Keys CNA, Victoria Altman, is accused of stealing jewelry from a 74-year-old Parkinson's patient and trying to pawn it.

If it's not for cash, it's the drugs.  Naples CNA, Yzelia Attilus, is accused of swapping out her patient's oxycodone for baby aspirin.

"You have no choice but to try to trust the people that are charged with your care. You want to trust that the people that hire them knew what they were doing and did all the things they should be doing.  You just have to be very, very careful, because it's the life of an older person that you're placing into there," says Helen King, from the Area Agency on Aging.  

State law says stealing from patients is considered unprofessional conduct for a CNA.  The Florida Department of Health says it’s all about protecting the public. The penalties can be as heavy as permanently revoking a license.

DOH says, “If anyone thinks that a caregiver is stealing, they are encouraged to notify the department.  Last year the department unveiled a more streamlined user-friendly complaint portal  https://www.flhealthcomplaint.gov/

"We are committed to conducting a thorough and object investigation into any complaint we receive.  In any complaint investigation, the department uses its authority to subpoena all relevant records and to conduct interviews that will support the investigation.  If any criminal activity is inspected the department will immediately contact the appropriate law enforcement entity.”

To check the license of a practioner, emergency suspensions and final orders: https://appsmqa.doh.state.fl.us/MQASearchServices/Home

To check the records of a Facility/Provider: http://www.floridahealthfinder.gov/facilitylocator/FacilitySearch.aspx

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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