A nurse’s aide at a Virginia veterans’ nursing home received a five-year prison sentence in September 2012 for a scheme that involved stealing residents’ wedding rings and selling them. She pleaded guilty to receiving and selling stolen property in July. She allegedly had a partner who actually stole the rings, then gave them to her to sell. The partner is still awaiting sentencing for grand larceny and selling stolen property. In addition to the prison sentencing, the court ordered both aides never to work in the nursing field again.
According to the Franklin News-Post, Ashley Michelle Sweeney and Brittney Heather Cook worked as contract nurse’s aides at the Virginia Veterans’ Center in Roanoke. Prosecutors described how the two aides worked together to carry out the theft scheme. Cook reportedly stole the wedding bands from nursing home residents. She would reportedly then give the rings to Sweeney, who allegedly sold them at two different pawn shops for a total of $360. The rings’ appraised value totaled about $4,600. In all, the two were charged with stealing and selling five rings. Their alleged victims were veterans of World War II and the Korean War, between 77 and 89 years of age.
Police arrested Sweeney and Cook in February 2012. They have recovered four of the five rings and returned them to their rightful owners. Both Sweeney and Cook entered pleas in July 2012. Sweeney pleaded guilty to four counts each of receiving stolen property and selling stolen property. She reportedly testified during her sentencing hearing that she participated in the theft in order to support a drug habit. Cook pleaded no contest to four counts each of grand larceny and selling stolen property.
The judge in Roanoke Circuit Court sentenced Sweeney to twenty-four years in prison in late September. He suspended all but five of those years. Cook is still awaiting sentencing in her case. The court ordered the two women to have no contact with one another. It also entered orders prohibiting either of them from ever working as nurse’s aides again.
While the alleged actions of the nurse’s aides in this case probably did not directly threaten the health or safety of nursing home residents, cases such as these pose serious concerns for advocates of nursing home safety. Nursing home residents have suffered significant injury and illness due to theft of medications by nursing home staff. Nursing home staffers contending with substance abuse issues should also be a concern for residents and their families if it compromises the quality of care they can provide.
Nursing homes owe a very high level of care to their residents. The duty of care may be higher than in other caregiver relationships because nursing home residents tend to need considerable assistance in performing daily tasks. This makes them particularly susceptible, not only to abuse and neglect, but to unlawful acts like theft. Nursing homes have a responsibility to take reasonable measure to ensure their patients are safe and secure.
At Lebowitz & Mzhen, we help people in Maryland obtain compensation for injuries caused by nursing home abuse or neglect. To schedule a free and confidential consultation, contact us today online or at (800) 654-1949.
More Blog Posts:
Nursing Home Staffer Charged with Elder Abuse for Allegedly Stealing Medicine, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, May 15, 2012
Drug Tampering by Nurses Reveals Problems in Regulation and Hiring, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, December 21, 2011
Nursing Home Worker Steals Resident’s Pain Patch for Pleasure, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, June 30, 2011
Photo credit: ‘Wedding Rings’ by theswedish on stock.xchng.