SNF owner arrested for stealing from residents to pay facility's debts

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A California nursing home owner was arrested Thursday after an investigation revealed he had stolen thousands of dollars from more than 50 residents to cover the facility's debts.

Michael Fellen, 65, allegedly used the money from resident's accounts to pay vendors, payroll and other costs at Sunnyside Convalescent Hospital in Fresno, CA, according to investigators. He was responsible for managing the trust funds for all residents at the nursing home.

"He told investigators that he was in extreme debt, he needed to come up with some way of paying off his bills. So this was one way he was going about it," Fresno County Sheriff's Police Information Officer, Tony Botti said at a press conference.

The thefts were uncovered after an audit found money from residents' accounts was being moved directly into the nursing home's business account. The audit was ordered by police after someone reported the fraud. Authorities say Fellen admitted to falsifying 57 resident's monthly financial records to cover up the stolen funds.

The nursing home owner previously faced financial troubles in 2008, when his entire staff went on strike after receiving incomplete paychecks for four weeks, according to a report by KSFN-TV. He said a state budget impasse was the cause of his shortfalls.

Fellen was booked at the Fresno County Jail and his bond has been set at $25,000. The California Department of Public Health in currently investigating the incident.