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Western Pennsylvania nursing home admins face federal fraud charges

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Administrators of an embattled Beaver County nursing home, and one of its sister facilities in Mt. Lebanon, face a host of criminal charges.

The federal indictment alleges that five co-conspirators falsified records to make it seem that staff members were providing direct care to residents at Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center and Mt. Lebanon Rehabilitation and Wellness Center. Prosecutors say that, in reality, the employees were not providing this care and sometimes were not even in the building.

Defendants are also accused of making false statements in order to receive higher Medicaid reimbursements. Federal prosecutors say this was done by lying about residents’ physical abilities and health needs.

U.S. Attorney Cindy Chung declined to say why or how the investigation into the two facilities began, but the crimes allegedly occurred between June 2014 and June 2021. The Brighton nursing home has been in and out of headlines since the spring of 2020. Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, the Beaver County facility had one of the highest number of fatalities among Pennsylvania skilled nursing facilities. More than 80 residents have died from COVID-19.

The five defendants include CEO and part-owner Sam Halper, regional directors Michelle Romeo and Johnna Haller, former Brighton director of nursing Eva Hamilton, and former Mt. Lebanon administrator Susan Gilbert. The recent indictment builds on federal charges against Gilbert that were filed in February 2021.

WESA was not able to reach the defendants for comment.

Sarah Boden covers health and science for 90.5 WESA. Before coming to Pittsburgh in November 2017, she was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio where she covered a range of issues, including the 2016 Iowa Caucuses.