ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — New York Attorney General Letitia James and the United States Attorney for the Northern District of New York (USAO-NDNY) Carla Freeman have secured over $7.1M from the Saratoga Center for Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Care (Saratoga Center), and its owners, unlicensed operator, and landlord for years of fraud and neglect. The Saratoga Center, which was located in Ballston Spa, was investigated after allegations that they were offering worthless aid and services to residents.
“Nursing homes should protect the health and well-being of every resident,” said Carla Freedman, United States Attorney for the Northern District of New York. “That did not happen at Saratoga Center. Instead, a business dispute between the operators and landlord led to dangerous conditions for residents and staff and caused the submission of false claims to Medicaid for worthless services. This case demonstrates that we will hold responsible people accountable when they pocket federal funds while providing substandard care. Thank you to Attorney General James and her office for collaborating on this case.”
The New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) issued a license to operate a nursing home to Alan Schwartz and Jeffrey Vegh after a months-long process in 2014. Around early 2017, the landlord required the legally licensed operators to turn over control of Saratoga Center due to a financial dispute. Schwartz and Vegh were replaced by Jack Jaffa and a business associate of this, along with several corporate entities, even though they didn’t have the necessary license from the NYSDOH. Jaffa and his associate took over all nondelegable duties that remained the responsibility of Schwartz and Vegh.
The unlicensed individuals operated Saratoga Center from February 2017 until its closing in February 2021. During that time, the Department of Justice (DOJ) says it provided worthless services to residents, and its physical conditions deteriorated to such a degree that it violated federal and state regulations. The DOJ says the home failed to adequately staff the home, residents suffered medication errors, unnecessary falls, and developed pressure ulcers. The Center also allegedly did not maintain hot water throughout the facility, have an adequate linen inventory, or dispose of solid waste.
In 2019, Saratoga Center was placed on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Special Focus Facility list. A list of the worst-performing nursing homes in the United States. Saratoga Center remained on the list until its closure. The United States contends that, between February 2017 and February 2021, the Settling Parties knowingly submitted or caused the submission of false claims for payment to Medicaid for worthless nursing services. This settlement resolves those allegations.
Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh (R,C-Ballston) said, “I am pleased to see this $7.1 million being returned to the Medicaid system. Our most vulnerable New Yorkers deserve high-end and quality care when they enter a nursing home facility. I hope this crackdown sends a message throughout the state that fraud and abuse will not be tolerated and that patient care must be priority number one.”