|TRENTON –Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino announced that a home health aide was indicted for allegedly abusing and neglecting an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s who was under her care. The alleged conduct was captured by the woman’s family on a hidden camera, and the incident became one of the cases that led the Attorney General’s Office to create the new Safe Care Cam program.
Carla Caraballo, 59, of Louisiana, formerly of Plainfield, N.J., was indicted yesterday by a Morris County grand jury on a third-degree charge of neglect of an elderly or disabled person by a caretaker. The Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau obtained the indictment as the result of an investigation by the Denville Police Department. Caraballo was initially arrested by the Denville Police Department on July 9, 2016. The New Jersey Board of Nursing subsequently filed an interim consent order in which Caraballo surrendered her certification as a certified homemaker-home health aide in New Jersey.
Caraballo worked as a home health aide at a senior living community in Denville where the victim lived. The victim suffered from dementia and Alzheimer’s, and the victim’s family installed hidden surveillance equipment in her residence to monitor her care. On July 6, 2016, they captured the incident in which Caraballo allegedly neglected to help the victim as she rose from bed, fell and struck her head.
The videotaped incident was one of several cases cited in December when Attorney General Porrino and the Division of Consumer Affairs announced a new initiative called the Safe Care Cam program, which makes micro-surveillance cameras available for free 30-day loans to individuals who suspect their loved ones are being abused by caregivers. The cameras initially were available only for in-home use, but on Tuesday, May 9, the Attorney General announced a program expansion to make the cameras available to families whose loved ones are in nursing homes.
“The shocking video in this case, along with several other similar videos, starkly brought home to us the need to implement the Safe Care Cam program to make micro-cameras available for families who suspect their loved ones are being mistreated by caregivers,” said Attorney General Porrino. “We’re committed to protecting the elderly and disabled, and we’re equally committed to holding those who neglect or abuse them strictly accountable for their conduct.”
“We allege that Caraballo treated the elderly victim in this case with complete callousness and showed an utter disregard for her safety and well-being,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “I commend the Denville Police Department for immediately recognizing the serious nature of this crime and ensuring that Caraballo faced justice.”
The investigation began when the victim’s family contacted the Denville Police Department and provided them with the video footage. In the video, Caraballo is seen failing to provide assistance as the victim attempted to leave her bed area. Caraballo demanded that the victim remain in bed. She then threatened to leave the elderly patient “on the floor all night” if she got up independently and fell.
Without any assistance, the victim fell as she sought to leave the bed area and struck her head and body on either the floor or the wall, suffering a head injury. Defendant allegedly refused to assist the 91-year old victim as she lay on the floor mere feet from her, despite being aware that she had fallen. Instead of providing assistance and determining whether medical help was necessary, defendant remained seated with her legs up on the victim’s wheelchair and scrolled through her cellular phone.
The victim allegedly remained on the floor for a prolonged period of time. Caraballo finally approached the elderly victim, wiped blood from her body, and made a remark to the effect that now the woman would remain in bed. Caraballo eventually called the victim’s daughter and explained that the mother fell. The daughter then called for help and the victim was transported to a hospital. Caraballo falsely claimed to have been holding the victim’s hand when she fell.
Deputy Attorney General Debra Conrad, who is Senior Counsel for the Specialized Crime Bureau, and Deputy Attorney General Gezim Bajrami presented the case to the grand jury for the Division of Criminal Justice, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Jacqueline Smith and Deputy Division Director Jill Mayer. They were assisted by Detective Jessica Tattoli of the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau. Attorney General Porrino thanked the Denville Police Department for their investigation and ongoing assistance in the prosecution. The lead detective on the case for the Denville Police Department was Sgt. Scott Revis.
Third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in state prison and a fine of up to $15,000. The charge is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The indictment was handed up to Superior Court Judge Paul Armstrong in Morris County, where Caraballo will be ordered to appear in court at a later date for arraignment on the charge.
Individuals who wish to participate in the Safe Care Cam program can call 973-504-6375 and leave a message in a voice mailbox that is monitored by Division of Consumer Affairs staff. Or they can call the Division’s toll-free line 800-242-5846 and follow voice prompts to leave a message.
Maureen L. Ingersoll, Assistant Deputy Public Defender, Morris County.
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