Caregiver accused of mistreating disabled man, theft

December 17, 2009 3:23:25 PM PST
A Freeport home healthcare provider has been arrested after prosecutors say she repeatedly left her developmentally-disabled patient in a parked car outside her home. Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said the woman also worked an illegal second job while she was supposed to be providing care for her patient.

Esther Reyes, 33, was arrested Thursday morning by DA Investigators and charged with third-degree grand larceny, third-degree welfare fraud and endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person.

Reyes faces up to seven years in prison if convicted.

Rice said that between July 25, 2006 and November 17, 2008, Reyes was employed by a Hicksville couple to be the home health aide to their 23-year-old son who suffered from autism, seizures and pervasive developmental disorder. Instead of providing that essential care, including dressing and feeding the man, Reyes locked the man in a car in her driveway with only a radio.

Additionally, Reyes allegedly worked a second job as a school bus driver while she was supposed to be caring for the man. Medicaid regulations prohibit care providers from having secondary employment during the hours they are working in that capacity. Reyes fraudulently collected $34,157 in Medicaid payments.

"This case shocks the conscience," Rice said. "This case may not be the largest Medicaid theft we've done, and it certainly isn't the most sophisticated, but it just may be one of the most disturbing and inhuman. This defendant scammed the system and preyed on the needs of an incredibly vulnerable young man, all for the sake of a buck."

The case was brought to the attention of the District Attorney's Office by the Nassau County Executive's Medicaid Unit.

"This defendant ripped-off the taxpayers and ripped out the heart of a family in need. It's certainly not the story that this holiday season needs," County Executive Tom Suozzi said.