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I-Team Special Report: Hiring Felons

Updated: Friday, May 23, 2014 |
I-Team Special Report: Hiring Felons story image
(NEWSCHANNEL 3) - The Newschannel 3 I-Team is shining a light on an alarming issue.

Within the last decade, Michigan lawmakers passed very strict rules protecting some of our most vulnerable people--homebound patients who are sick or elderly.

The laws we're talking about prevent felons from immediately entering the workforce into the home health care field after they've finished doing time in prison.

Thursday, the I-Team presents the results of an investigation that is now prompting a state investigation.

Alliance Home Health Services, based on Miller Road in Kalamazoo, is a company that sends care providers out to the homes of homebound patients.

The I-Team investigation corroborated what multiple sources have told us for months--that a woman currently working for the home health care company is a felony habitual offender.

From Michigan State Police records, the rap sheet on the woman:

  • Felony attempted breaking and entering
  • Felony larceny
  • Felony stealing
  • Felony credit card theft
  • Felony prison escape

Then, we heard from Jennifer Fleeman, her past supervisor at Alliance Home Health Services.

"My concern was for her working with social security numbers," she said.

Fleeman says Medicare numbers, which in many cases are social security numbers, were readily available to all employees at the company.

She says all the workers--many of them telemarketers--had to collect the information to ensure the patient would qualify for Medicare homebound medical service.

"I still miss it, being able to work with so many elderly people and make them so happy," Fleeman said.

After she left the company in May 2013, Fleeman says the woman in question got promoted and actually took Fleeman's job as a supervisor.

We wanted to find out if the woman was still working at Alliance with direct access to patient information, so we went to the address we confirmed from multiple sources as the company's marketing headquarters.

And we ended up right at the woman's door--which was promptly slammed in our face.

She didn't tell us anything about her apparent current employment with Alliance, but through state documents we did find a reason why she might have locked the door on the I-Team.

Through the Freedom of Information Act, we found that she was disqualified from working in home health care in 2012, but somehow continued working even as the people inside the company promised state regulators last year that she was "not an employee anymore."

In this case, state documents show that she has to wait until 2019 to work at a home health agency.

By law, most felons have to wait 10 years after they're out of the justice system to get in the field--some have to wait 15 years if they've done time for things like criminal sexual conduct and abuse.

Those with qualifying misdemeanor convictions even have to sit out five years.

So we turned to the man who created and owned Alliance Home Health Services from 2006 up until February 2014, Mark Cataldo.

We walked straight into his office at Alliance, and he escorted us out of the building, then waited to hit the road in his vehicle.

After deciding he didn't want to drive away, he got out of his car and walked back inside.

Before he left us, we asked point blank if he had a person with a felony background handling information.

He closed the door on us.

But it seems Cataldo shut the door on us at about the same time regulators at the State Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs opened one for us, to find out what we know about the company.

After we told LARA Director for Health Facilities Larry Horvath what we knew, he promised he would, "determine whether that allegation has substantial information that shows that the provider is willfully and knowingly violating the law."

Horvath says there's punishment in the law for executives at home health agencies that don't follow laws in the public health code.

"A home health agency must stay compliant with state law, so if we found that they are in violation of this part of the act which requires background checks and they and knowingly and willingly violate them--part of this--and we found them in noncompliance with this, we could cite them," Horvath said. "That would risk their federal certification and participation in medicare."

Horvath did this interview with us last week.

Since then, state regulators tell Newschannel 3 that they've investigated the allegations to which we alerted them, and they've forwarded the results of their investigation on for possible prosecution and action.

Carole Engle, Director of Michigan's Bureau of Health Care Services wrote in an email to Newschannel 3:

"The bureau takes these allegations very seriously and after reviewing the information provided, we have referred this matter to the state Attorney General for a more formal investigation and potential enforcement action. We thank the WWMT I-Team for sharing their information with us."

We're told that Alliance has at least 150 patients in multiple counties across West Michigan.

Records show Alliance's former owner, Cataldo, transferred the company in February to one of the company's managers, Patrick Dizon.

This week, we tried contacting Cataldo again, and also tried to contact Dizon.

Neither responded to requests for comment.

In addition to this investigation, there is another home health care company in West Michigan named Alliance.

It's called Alliance Home Health Care Services Inc. and it's based in Holland.

We're not talking about that company at all; this investigation centered around Alliance Home Health Services, which is based in Kalamazoo.
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