TRENTON – In anticipation of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (W.E.A.A.D) on Friday, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor (OIFP) today announced charges against five individuals accused of abusing elderly, disabled adults in their care.
To mark the international W.E.A.A.D. event on Friday, the OIFP will host a statewide symposium of government and private organizations dedicated to protecting seniors from abuse, neglect, and exploitation. The “Building Strong Support for Elders” event will provide the public with resources and information on how to identify, prevent, and report crimes against the elderly.
“Elder abuse is a cruel and despicable crime targeting those unable to protect themselves,” said Attorney General Grewal. “World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is an opportunity for New Jersey to unite with communities around the world in denouncing the financial, physical, and emotional abuse or neglect of our vulnerable senior citizens, and to demonstrate our efforts to protect them from harm.”
The “Building Strong Support for Elders” event will be held Friday from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Richard J. Hughes Justice Complex, 25 Market Street, Trenton.
Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver will give special remarks. The event is open to the public and press. Registration is required. To register go to https://form.jotform.com/81286419593972.
“Our Medicaid Fraud Control Unit has broad powers to investigate and prosecute crimes against the elderly and we are using those powers to their fullest,” said Tracy M. Thompson, Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor. “The charges announced today demonstrate our commitment to safeguarding elderly and disabled individuals from being victimized in their homes or residential care facilities.”
The criminal charges were contained in three separate indictments obtained by OIFP prosecutors in the past two weeks.
In the first indictment, Certified Nurse Aide Sandra Garcider, 29, of Willingboro and Certified Homemaker Home Health Aide Hnede Kpardeh, 35, of Morrisville PA, were charged with third-degree neglect of an elderly or disabled person for allegedly failing to render assistance to an 82-year-old man left on the floor with a broken hip at the psychiatric hospital where they were working.
In the second indictment, Certified Homemaker Home Health Aide Regina Twumasi, 53, of South Amboy, was charged with fourth-degree assault on an institutionalized elderly person for allegedly striking a 78-year-old patient in the forehead with a cell phone during an altercation at the nursing home where she worked.
In the third indictment, Claudia Morais, 52, and Adilson Morais, 51, of Livingston are accused of stealing more than $100,000 from an 87-year-old bedridden stroke victim being cared for in her home by Claudia Morais. The husband and wife were indicted on numerous charges, including second-degree conspiracy and theft by deception.
The indictments stem from investigations conducted by OIFP’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU), which receives federal funding to investigate and prosecute Medicaid provider fraud as well as the abuse or neglect of Medicaid patients, or patients who reside in facilities that receive Medicaid funding.
The incident involving Garcider and Kpardeh occurred on March 18 at the Buttonwood Behavioral Health Hospital, an acute psychiatric care hospital where the women were working as patient aides. Hospital surveillance video shows the elderly male victim being pushed to the ground by another male patient who was being led into a common area by Garcider and Kpardeh. Video footage allegedly shows that both aides saw the victim fall to the ground with his leg twisted outward but walked away without rendering any aide to him. Video shows the man lying on the floor for 28 minutes before another aide finds him on the floor and requests help for him. X-rays later confirmed the man’s hip was broken.
The charge against Twumasi stems from an incident that occurred on December 23, 2017 at the Millennium Memory Care, an Alzheimer and dementia care facility in Holmdel where Twumasi was working. Twumasi allegedly struck the elderly female patient’s head with her cell phone, causing a laceration to the woman’s forehead. The incident, caught on hospital surveillance video, allegedly began when Twumasi tried to physically subdue the agitated patient.
Claudia Morais and Adilson Morais are accused of financially exploiting an elderly widow who required 24-hour care. Claudia Morais, who was privately employed as a caretaker for the victim, and Adilson Morais are accused of stealing more than $100,000 from the elderly woman through forged checks and unauthorized use of the woman’s credit cards. The couple was indicted on one count each of conspiracy to commit theft by deception (2nd degree), theft by deception (2nd degree), conspiracy to commit identity theft (3rd degree), and identity theft (3rd degree). Claudia Morais was also indicted on one count each of forgery (3rd degree) and money laundering (3rd degree).
In charges unrelated to the elderly woman’s finances, the couple was indicted on one count each of conspiracy to commit Medicaid fraud (3rd degree) and Medicaid fraud (3rd degree) for allegedly falsely represented their income in order to fraudulently obtain insurance benefits through the Medicaid program.
The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Second-degree crimes carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison and a criminal fine of up to $150,000, while third-degree crimes carry a maximum sentence of five years in state prison and a criminal fine of up to $15,000.
Deputy Attorney General Patrick K. Gessner presented the Garcider and Kpardeh case and the Twumasi case to the Grand Jury. Detective Anthony Iannice coordinated both investigations and testified before the Grand Jury in both matters. Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Thompson thanks the Department of Health Licensure, Ombudsman for the Institutionalized Elderly and the Holmdel Township Police Department for their assistance in the Twumasi investigation; and the Department of Health Licensure and Buttonwood Behavioral Health Hospital for their assistance in the Garcider/Kpardeh investigation.
Deputy Attorney General Lauren Aranguren presented the Morais case to the Grand Jury. Detective Danielle Han coordinated the investigation and testified before the Grand Jury in this matter. Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Thompson thanks the Department of Human Services, Adult Protective Services Unit for their assistance in the Morais investigation.
Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Thompson noted that some important cases have started with anonymous tips. People who are concerned about insurance cheating and have information about a fraud can report it anonymously by calling the toll-free hotline at 1-877-55-FRAUD, or visiting the website at www.njinsurancefraud.org. State regulations permit a reward to be paid to an eligible person who provides information that leads to an arrest, prosecution and conviction for insurance fraud.
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