The Star-Telegram reported this weekend on a unique case of a crime spree involving identity theft that affected literally dozens of nursing home, home healthcare businesses, and countless vulnerable seniors. For our Illinois elder abuse lawyers it is yet another remind of the need for those in a position to do so to keep a close eye on the finances and living conditions of seniors to ensure they are safe and secure. Nursing home negligence and lapses in care by at-home care providers are just the start of possible misconduct that can be perpetrated against these vulnerable community members.
This particular crime spree began when a nursing home aide had her purse stolen. She had noticed that her purse was gone when she was in the parking lot of the nursing home where she worked. The 25-year old woman reported the theft to local authorities. It was a stressful situation for the aide because she lost a wide range of documents, from her driver’s license and checkbook to her Social Security card and an ID card that identified her as a certified nurse’s aide.
The thief happened to be a former CNA herself, though because of identity theft crimes and two prior prison sentences, she couldn’t get a job as a CNA in the state if a background check was performed under her name. Unfortunately, the thief used the stolen ID to get jobs in nursing homes and various home health companies. Unfortunately, once employed at these agencies she had no intention of providing necessary care and earning an honest wage. Instead, she used the position to steal even more documents, engaging in senior financial exploitation, and then moving on to find more victims.
Our Illinois nursing home lawyers were shocked to learn about the complexity of the scheme, which ultimately lasted more than two years. In one case, a resident at a senior care facility had a $20,000 ring stolen-it has yet to be recovered. Many other residents at that same facility reported thefts. So far, authorities are still unsure all of the places that the criminal worked or who all was hurt by the misconduct.
Some have questioned the hiring practice of some of the nursing homes when criticizing how the scheme could have gone on for two years. For example, the identity thief never had a driver’s license in the name of the aide’s documents that she initially stole. Instead, she only had a piece of paper that said that she had a paid a driver’s license renewal. Investigators explain that a smart hiring official should have been alarmed by this situation and investigated further, instead of hiring the woman. Much theft and exploitation might have been prevented had the hiring officials at these senior care facilities conducted due diligence to ensure those they hired were not a threat to the seniors.
Another part of the problem is that the state, Texas, does not have all that accurate records about nursing aides. They are less regulated than actual nurses. Previous proposed laws sought to close the loophole but all of them were defeated. Changes may be made in light of this most recent crime spree, however.
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