The owner of what was a poorly operated and now-shuttered Totowa nursing home who fraudulently obtained $302,877 in payments from the Medicaid Program was sentenced to 30 days in a county jail Friday.
Victor Napenas, 64, of Piscataway must also repay the $302,877, another $45,263 in penalties and $31,859 taxes owed to the state. State Superior Court Judge Irvin J. Snyder in Camden also gave Napenas three years of probation. He is also prohibited from being a Medicaid provider for eight years.
The sentence was based on Napenas' Aug. 16 guilty plea to a charge of third-degree Medicaid fraud. Napenas owned the Valley Rest Nursing Home on Bogart Street in Totowa, which closed in 2007. In pleading guilty, he admitted that he fraudulently obtained payments from Medicaid, including $100,000 for personal expenses unrelated to patient care.
The investigation began when state Department of Health and Senior Services surveyors noted severe deficiencies in the care delivered to residents at Valley Rest, which resulted in the owners voluntarily closing the facility. In the process, the DHSS ordered a financial audit, which showed many irregularities on the facility's 2005 cost report submitted to Medicaid.
DHSS referred the matter to the state Division of Criminal Justice. The investigation revealed that the cost report included $302,877 in improper charges, including personal expenses and other amounts Napenas could not document or prove were spent.
Napenas issued business credit cards to himself and his wife through the nursing home, which they used for personal purchases, including trips to the Philippines, dance lessons and large family dinners. Napenas had those credit card charges and other personal expenses totaling more than $100,000 inserted into the cost report, resulting in reimbursement from Medicaid.
"This nursing home owner treated the facility's Medicaid cost report like his own blank check, fraudulently obtaining reimbursement for over $100,000 in personal expenses in a single year," state Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Riza Dagli said. "Fortunately, the Department of Health and Senior Services audited the facility and detected irregularities in the cost report. Our Medicaid Fraud Control Unit will continue to work with the Department of Health and Senior Services to uncover and prosecute fraud and abuse involving Medicaid providers."
Deputy Attorneys General Linda A. Rinaldi and Erik Daab, director of the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, prosecuted the case. Sgt. Frederick Weidman, Auditor Kim Geis and Rinaldi conducted the investigation for the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor.
— TOM HESTER SR., NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM