EAST MEADOW, Long Island (WABC) -- New York Attorney General Letitia James is suing a nursing home on Long Island, claiming it disregarded laws to protect patients and used the Medicaid program to enrich themselves.
The halls are empty inside a nursing home at Fulton Commons Care Center in East Meadow in Nassau County.
According to relatives of some of the residents, buzzers were out of the reach. In one patient's case, a buzzer was left unanswered for up to an hour.
"My wife has a choking hazard," said Kenneth Morse, the husband of one of the residents. "God forbid, she was choking and hitting that buzzer. I'm going to a funeral instead of going to go visit her."
Morse's wife Christine, who has multiple sclerosis, moved in from Levittown in February after her condition worsened.
Her bed is one of 280 at the nursing home facility that is now being sued by James for stealing millions in government funds in addition to reported neglect and abuse of its residents.
The lawsuit accuses the owner, Moshe Kalter, and several relatives and operators, of using $34 million to pay, what's called inflated rent, to one of its shell companies.
It claims the nursing home inappropriately paid nearly $15 million to the operators from Medicare and Medicaid funds without telling the state health department and also paid more than $1 million to the owner's eight children.
The lawsuit claims the missing money prompted severe staffing shortages at the nursing home.
"Now that I'm hearing that, I'm not surprised," Matt said.
Matt, who does not want to be identified, said he witnessed the neglect when visiting his friend.
"My friend, he's 82. He's got trouble with his hands from his fall. He spilled food, a drink in his bed and three days later, the same sheets are still on the bed," he said.
The lawsuit also accuses the facility of underreporting COVID-19 deaths on purpose by as much as 45%.
Eyewitness News reporter Chantee Lans went inside the nursing home to search for answers.
No one would speak on camera, but they gave contact information for an administrator.
Eyewitness News left messages, but no one called back.
James wants the alleged stolen money returned, the medical director replaced, and to stop taking new residents until staffing meets the appropriate standards.
"The aids are actually very good. Unfortunately, they're overworked," Morse said.
Daine Williams, Executive Vice President of United Healthcare Workers East released a statement commending James' lawsuit.
"The appalling allegations contained in the Attorney General's lawsuit expose the real human consequences of a profit-driven nursing home industry. For years, frontline workers, including at Fulton Commons, have been raising the alarm that inadequate staffing and profiteering is putting residents at risk. It is no coincidence that federal data show that Fulton Commons was below the state standard of 3.5 hours per resident per day for 85 of the 90 days in the most recent quarter where information is available."