N.J. Nursing Home Owner Charged with $100,000 Theft

September 23, 2003

New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey announced that the former owner of a Hudson County nursing home has been charged by the Division of Criminal Justice – Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor for allegedly stealing more than $100,000 from patients’ Personal Needs Accounts administered through the state’s Medicaid and Social Security programs.

According to Vaughn L. McKoy, Director, Division of Criminal Justice and Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Greta Gooden Brown, Surbhi Tarkas, 55, Carlton Court, East Brunswick, Middlesex County, was charged in a State Grand Jury indictment with theft by failure to make required disposition of property received (2nd degree). If convicted, Tarkas faces up to ten years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000. Tarkas will be ordered to appear in Hudson County Superior Court for arraignment and bail on a date to be set by the court.

The Division of Criminal Justice – Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor’s investigation determined that Tarkas was the director and part-owner of Progressive Health Care of Hudson County, Inc. which owned Meadowview Nursing Center located at 595 County Avenue in Secaucus, Hudson County. The indictment charged that between June 2000 and Jan. 2001, Tarkas diverted over $100,000 from various nursing home residents trust accounts and used the monies to pay corporate expenses. Meadowview Nursing Center, a Medicaid provider of long term care services to Medicaid recipients, received payments from the Medicaid Program and Social Security on behalf of the nursing home residents. The nursing home, in turn, was required by law to place $35 to $40 of these payments into a Personal Needs Account (PNA) each month for each resident’s personal use.

State Investigator Jacqueline Latty, Auditor Cleair Budhu and Deputy Attorney General Erik Daab were assigned to the investigation. DAG Daab represented the Division of Criminal Justice – Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor before the State Grand Jury. Representatives from the Department of Health and Senior Services, Office of the Ombudsman, assisted in the investigation.

“The allegations contained in this indictment charge the defendant with stealing money from elderly patients who required long term care,” Prosecutor Gooden Brown said. “This type of fraud and criminal activity is abhorrent. The Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor will investigate and prosecute this type of crime.”

Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Gooden Brown noted that the Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor has realized a 143 percent increase in indictments; a 91 percent increase in defendants charged; a 79 percent increase in convictions (trial convictions and guilty pleas); and a 60 percent increase in civil sanctions during calendar year 2002. The Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor charged 225 defendants in 2002, versus 118 defendants in 2001. Additionally, the Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor imposed sanctions in 3,723 civil fraud cases in 2002, compared to 2,063 civil sanctions obtained in 2001. The Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor collected $20.6 million in penalties in 2002, up from $15.8 million last year.

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