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Pa. Nursing Home Administrator Indicted

August 25, 2004

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ The head of a now-defunct suburban Pittsburgh nursing home where an Alzheimer’s patient died after wandering outside in the cold has been indicted on federal fraud charges.

The indictment also charges the former Ronald Reagan Atrium I Nursing and Rehabilitation Center with health care fraud and false statements relating to health care matters.

The fraud charges against former administrator Martha Fenchak-Bell, 58, and the now-closed nursing home are on top of state involuntary manslaughter charges filed last year. Mabel Taylor, 88, died Oct. 26, 2001, after she was locked out in 40-degree temperatures.

According to the indictment, Fenchak-Bell and the nursing home altered nurses’ records to hide bruises and sores, forged doctors’ signatures on medical records, altered doctors’ orders and didn’t hire enough employees.

Federal prosecutors claim Fenchak-Bell and the facility also defrauded Medicare and Medicaid from 1999 to 2003 by forging records and inflating care.

Fenchak-Bell also is accused of skimming money by having the nursing home make payments to three nonprofit organizations she ran.

Neither Fenchak-Bell nor attorneys representing her and the home returned calls Tuesday.

Fenchak-Bell is awaiting trial on charges of involuntary manslaughter, neglect of a care-dependent person, conspiracy and reckless endangerment in Taylor’s death.

Prosecutors allege Fenchak-Bell and a supervisor _ Kathryn Galati _ conspired to cover up Taylor’s death. Galati is awaiting trial on perjury, conspiracy and tampering with evidence charges.

Investigators believe Taylor either walked out a door that was propped open, or one where the alarm was deactivated so workers could go outside and smoke. Taylor fell and died of a combination of heart failure and exposure.

Prosecutors claim Fenchak-Bell ordered Galati to have Taylor’s body carried back into the home and to alter records to make it appear Taylor died in her sleep.

Alexander Lindsay, an attorney for the nursing home and Fenchak-Bell, has argued that they should not be held responsible for Taylor’s death because there was no way to know Taylor would wander outside.

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