Tuesday, May 15, 2007

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Former Waller County Nursing Home Office Manager Pleads Guilty to Stealing Funds From Residents

HEMPSTEAD – The former office manager of the Waller County Brookshire Nursing Center pleaded guilty to embezzling money from the facility’s residents. An investigation by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit revealed that Gabriela Ortiz Aguilar, 27, of Houston, stole more than $32,000 from several patients’ trust accounts.

Beginning in August 2003, Aguilar began depositing stolen funds into her personal bank accounts. She will serve 60 days in jail and be placed under supervised probation for 10 years. Aguilar must also perform 240 hours of community service and attend a special course about crime’s impact on society.

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Gabriela Aguilar
Gabriela Aguilar

“Texans will never tolerate criminals who exploit senior citizens,” Attorney General Abbott said. “Nursing home employees are obligated to care for their patients, not steal from them. The Medicaid Fraud Control Unit will continue aggressively protecting Texas seniors.”

Following Aguilar’s April 2006 arrest, Medicaid Fraud investigators discovered evidence of further criminal conduct. Aguilar also diverted money from residents’ trust fund accounts at Houston’s Briarwood Health Care Center. Aguilar was subsequently indicted for stealing an additional $4,000 from those accounts. She will appear in a Harris County District Court on May 14 to face those charges.

In the Brookshire Nursing Center case, the center’s regional account manager conducted an internal audit and found that Aguilar wrote 33 unauthorized checks from the combined trust fund pool to her personal accounts. The account manager then alerted the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services, which subsequently referred the case to the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit for criminal investigation.

Residents’ family members may elect to have Medicaid funds or deposits from relatives held in nursing home “trust fund” accounts. Nursing home officials – in this case, Aguilar – are entrusted with managing these accounts, including cash distributions requested by the residents or their relatives. Trust accounts may be audited by the state at any time.