Newschannel 3 continues digging into reports of felons working at home health care agency

Updated: Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Newschannel 3 continues digging into reports of felons working at home health care agency  story image

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) – In May, the Newschannel 3 I-Team broke some disturbing news about the hiring practices of a local home healthcare company, specifically that a felon convicted of several serious crimes was employed by the company to setup care for senior citizens.

Newschannel 3’s chief investigative reporter David Bailey has continued to investigate the case and explains why the company’s former employees say many patients were left in a vulnerable position.

More sources have come forward in recent weeks to confirm what we reported in May, that a felon with a serious criminal background worked at Alliance Home Health Services based in Kalamazoo. We’ll call that person Felon 1.

Now many other sources have come forward saying that Alliance Home Health Services routinely hired felons. The I-Team dug into the past of many of the alleged felon employees to find out what they did before they were hired at Alliance.

Linda Hartman says it was terrible enough that she had to watch her grandmother’s final days in an assisted living facility not affiliated with Alliance Home Health Services, but then to hear this.

“Grandma started saying people were stealing her things,” said Hartman.

Hartman says her grandmother, Katherine Lewis was legally blind in 2002 and she was being cared for by an employee in that facility that we’ll call Felon 2.

“She started doing my grandma’s nails,” said Hartman.

Hartman says Felon 2 befriended her grandmother and it wasn’t until weeks later that the family realized Felon 2 was actually writing checks on the 92-year-old’s bank account.

“She’d go to her credit union, cash them and put them in her account,” said Hartman. “They had it on film.”

Felon 2 was convicted of felony uttering and publishing, which means simply writing fraudulent checks. At the time of the conviction in 2005, it was Felon 2’s 13th felony conviction. Seven of them at that point were for the same crime, uttering and publishing.

Before Felon 2’s sentencing Lewis’ family wrote to the judge that Felon 2 had victimized innocent elderly people, took advantage of them and committed “an unspeakable crime.”

“She didn’t look sorry, she didn’t act sorry, she didn’t say she was sorry,” said Hartman.

Felon 2 did spend time in prison for her crimes against Katherine Lewis, but even after she served that time, her records show she committed further felonies.

In 2005 she was convicted of fleeing a police officer, in 2011 convicted of false report of a felony.

Despite all the convictions, multiple sources tell Newschannel 3 that Felon 2 was hired in at Alliance Home Health Services starting in 2013.

Newschannel 3 reached out to Felon 2 and she confirmed to the I-Team in multiple conversations that she was indeed an employee of Alliance Home Health Services. She told us her job was to cold-call senior citizens and qualify them for home health care.

She said she would get the Medicare numbers over the phone, Medicare numbers which in many cases are Social Security numbers.

In a conversation with Felon 2 off camera, David Bailey asked if she was handling Social Security numbers, to which she said “Yeah, everybody there was.”

Felon 2 also told Newschannel 3, and this was backed up by other employees that she would make home visits to try to sign people up for home health care.

A 15 time felon, paid to visit prospective patients.

“It’s very scary,” said former Alliance employee Pam Whitmore, “very scary.”

Whitmore was employed by Alliance in 2013 and identified working alongside Felon 2. Records show that Whitmore doesn’t have a felony criminal history.

“Was it pretty well known in that office that there were multiple felons working in that office?” asked Newschannel 3’s David Bailey.

“Yes,” said Whitmore, “you could overhear conversations and know about people who had been in jail for this or that.”

Whitmore also identified working with Felon 1, a woman we mentioned in our previous story who was a supervisor at the company. We previously reported that Felon 1 has a long criminal history that put her in prison on and off over two decades.

In addition to Felon 1 and Felon 2, the I-Team has confirmed that three more felons worked for Alliance as well. All three of them confirmed to us in off-camera interviews that they worked for the company.

Felon 3 is a convicted sex offender. Records show that in 2002 he was convicted of two counts of first degree criminal sexual conduct and is listed on the sex offender registry as a tier three sex offender, the most severe classification.

Felon 4 and Felon 5’s records show they were both convicted of possession of methamphetamines. All five felons were convicted of felony crimes before they started working at Alliance.

Multiple sources tell Newschannel 3 that all of the employees in the company, felons and non-felons, regularly handled Social Security numbers.

Newschannel 3 took a look at the law in Michigan and found that generally felons are barred from working in a home health care agency until ten years have lapsed from the time they’re out of the justice system. For some of the most serious felonies there’s a wait time of 15 years.

Through the Freedom of Information Act Newschannel 3 found documents indicating that Felons 1, 4 and 5 were disqualified by the state from working at Alliance Home Health Services after the company did background checks, that their criminal convictions were too recent for them to work at Alliance at the time.

The state confirmed those felons were disqualified from all health care environments for which a background check must be conducted, including a home health agency.

Two of those three felons told Newschannel 3 that they continued to be employed with Alliance even after being disqualified. Both are no longer employed at Alliance.

As for the third, we reported in May that person also continued working for the company after being disqualified.

As for Felons 2 and 3, the State Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs didn’t have records on them, suggesting to state regulators that they didn’t go through the mandatory criminal background checks.

For Felon 2, under the state law, the 2011 criminal conviction we mentioned earlier would apparently have barred her from working in a home health care agency until at least the year 2021.

Felon 3 apparently wouldn’t have been able to work for such an agency until 2024 at the earliest because the sex offender didn’t get out of prison until 2009.

In May Newschannel 3 turned to the man who was a key officer for Alliance Home Health Services from 2006 up until February of 2014, local businessman Mark Cataldo. We didn’t get many answers.

In July, the people in charge at Alliance referred us to their attorney, Orlando Blanco, to respond to us.

He wrote in an email that the company does background checks on all prospective employees who will be placed in a position to provide direct services to patients or have regular access to their private health information.

He wrote “Alliance Home Health Services does not now, and has not previously, knowingly employed or independently contracted with, or granted privileges to any individual who has direct access to or provided direct services to patients or residents, including access to any private health information and records, as defined by Michigan statute, if the individual has had a qualifying conviction."

Newschannel 3 questioned his answer, considering that seven former employees the I-Team contacted told us all the company’s employees had regular, direct access to Social Security numbers, medical records and treatment information during their employment.

Newschannel 3 submitted a list of follow-up questions to attorney Blanco nearly two weeks ago. We have not received a response.

The I-Team alerted state regulators to the issue in May. Carole Engle, Director of Michigan’s Bureau of Health Care Services wrote in an email to us;

“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.”

Hartman, having to now relive what happened in 2002 says the government must act to investigate what really happened here, considering the threat she knows all too well.

“How many other people has she done things to that we don’t even know about,” said Hartman, “some people will not report it because they’re embarrassed.”

Newschannel 3 inquired with the Attorney General’s office about the matter, a spokesperson told us the referral from Michigan’s Bureau of Health Care Services is being reviewed.

In addition, we want to make sure there is no confusion about the agency. There is another home health care company operating in West Michigan named Alliance.

Alliance Home Health Care Services, Inc., is based out of Holland. We are not talking about that company. We are talking about Alliance Home Health Services based in Kalamazoo.

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