U.S. Attorney: CEO charges should be a warning sign
The successful criminal prosecution of a former nursing home CEO should send a "strong warning" to the rest of the industry and could lead to further prosecutions around the country, says the U.S. Attorney who successfully pressed charges. "This is really a first-of-its-kind prosecution in the country," said U.S. Attorney Catherine L. Hanaway of the high-profile plea agreement deal against Robert Wachter, a former St. Louis-area nursing home executive.
Three facilities and their now-defunct parent company, American Healthcare Management, also pleaded guilty to charges of fraud, conspiracy and failure to care for residents.
Prosecutors say they will recommend 18 months in prison for Wachter, and fines totaling $750,000 to be spread among him and the others accused.
Care was "so minimal that it just didn't exist" and thereby defrauded Medicare and Medicaid agencies of at least $4 million, said Hanaway. Residents suffered from life-threatening pressure ulcers, dehydration, malnutrition and other extremes – all while Wachter continued to order cost cuts and pressure staff to lie about conditions, prosecutors said.
AHM President Charles Kaiser, who ignored administrators' pleas for more workers, already has served a year behind bars for not reporting elder abuse after the death of a resident with Alzheimer's disease.
Eleven of AHM's St. Louis-area nursing homes, including the three which pleaded guilty, have since changed names and owners.