Western Health Care LLC, which ran Seasons’ Way until January, is bankrupt. According to Talladega Police Captain of Investigation Ronnie Jones, a male resident reported discovering about $2,000 in unauthorized withdrawals about a month ago. A female resident discovered $7,915 taken from her account between April and September of last year.
Jones said the unauthorized withdrawals were made by an accounting firm in Santaquin, Utah, and then routed to a bank in Mississippi. Since the actual crime took place in Utah, local authorities lack jurisdiction in the case, he said.
“There is no minimum loss by statute to trigger a federal investigation,” said Peggy Sanford, press secretary for the U.S. Attorneys Office for the District of Alabama. “The loss amount is one of several factors that are considered. But the main thing is you need some kind of federal nexus, whether it involves using the mail or wire transfers or other kinds of interstate commerce.”
In spite of there being a lack of federal statute, there is a practical issue involved, however. Paul Damon, spokesman for the FBI’s Birmingham field office, conceded there is a bottom threshold in these cases, although he did not know what it was.
According to www.fraud-aid.com, a non-profit group set up to help victims of various scams negotiate the legal process, the most common loss threshold is $100,000, although it is higher in some jurisdictions.
The female victim’s daughter said she only discovered the lost funds in January, which is past the 60 day mark to report the fraud to the bank. She contacted the former management company.
“I finally got them to agree that they had taken more than they were supposed to, and they said they would pay me back at the end of February. I still haven’t seen the money.”
What she did get was a letter dated Feb. 7. The letter is typed on plain paper without a company letterhead. It is headed “RE: Error on account.”
“I want to apologize to you for any inconvenience this may have caused,” the letter said. “I have researched the claim and have found the errors that you brought to my attention. At this time, WHS is in Chapter 7 bankruptcy. I will do all I can to get you paid back as soon as possible.”
The letter is signed “Regretfully,” over what appears to be a set of initials, “WHS, Member.”
“I called the FBI in Birmingham, and they told me to call Utah,” the daughter said.
Western Health Care relinquished its license to operate in Alabama in January, according to W.T. Geary Jr., medical director and interim bureau director of the Bureau of Health Provider Standards of the Alabama Department of Public Health. “We did an emergency revocation because they were in bankruptcy. I don’t know why they were unable to meet their obligations, but they put the residents at risk.”
Great Oaks Management is now in charge of the facility, which is operating as Seasons of Talladega.
The revocation report alludes to the thefts, but does not focus primarily on them. The report on Summer Place mentions a conversation with two employees who “stated the governing authority made deductions from the residents’ bank accounts beyond what was owed to the facility for rent.”
But the primary focus of the two reports (one for Summer Place and one for Autumn Trace) focus on a lack of money on hand, which led to shortages of everything from cleaning supplies to food. Employees reported going out and buying groceries for the residents with their own money on some occasions. Even this was not always a viable option since employees also complained their paychecks bounced frequently.
“Based on observations, interviews and record reviews, (the) owner (of the) governing authority failed to manage and operate the facility in a financially responsible manner. The governing authority failed to provide adequate funds to purchase food and resident care supplies; to pay for facility utilities and employees. These failures deprived the residents of basic care and services necessary to protect their health and safety.” Similar language was used in the Summer Place report.
“The rugs in the main congregate and hall areas needed to be cleaned,” according to the report on Summer Place. “Food and cleaning supplies were low; there was no emergency supply of food on hand; the staff stated it was difficult to get food and supplies when they needed them; the staff stated the facility received several disconnect notices from utility companies, however, utilities have never been cut off; the food budget is $441 per week (for 26 people); there was no landscaping for the facility grounds; many of the residents had concerns about the food being substandard; one resident stated that he would feed his dog better.”
The Autumn Trace report also stated that “the carpet in the floors in the dining room and living room were dirty with noticeable stains, crumbs of food and worn places. Painting needed to be done in most areas. There were holes in the walls. Staff persons cooking did not have on hairnets (There were) no funds to purchase supplies (and) there are tiles missing on the floor. Food inventory was very low. There were only a few cans of various food items on the shelves, in the refrigerator and in the freezer. There were no emergency supplies on hand.”
The emergency food supply was depleted because management had not authorized a weekly grocery purchase in December, instructing staff to use the three days worth of emergency supplies instead. The following week, less than half of the normal amount was authorized. No money was authorized to replenish the emergency supply.
The facility was also threatened with having its electricity, water, gas, cable and telephone service turned off for lack of payment. Phone service actually was cut off, with an employee supplying the residents with prepaid cell phones. Employees frequently paid bills out of their own pockets as well, according to the report.
Summer Place was also cited for lack of required written procedures, allowing unlicensed persons to conduct blood glucose tests on residents and not having the sprinkler system inspected as required.
Autumn Way was also cited for lacking some written policies, failing to provide required training for three staff members and failure to document the fate of prescription medications when a resident checked out.
The report also noted that a roach was seen in the kitchen, the kitchen sink was sitting in the middle of the floor, and there were several soaked blankets where a Hobart sanitizer was not working properly.
Fire drills were not held as often as required, and the sprinkler system was not tested as often as required.
Several voice mails for Western Health Care President James Linn Wright in Utah were unreturned as of Tuesday evening.
Contact Chris Norwood at firstname.lastname@example.org.