Add To Favorites In PHR
Public guardian alleges nursing home workers took $750,000 from dementia patient
Chicago Tribune - 11/16/2018
Nov. 16--Cook County acting Public Guardian Charles Golbert said Thursday that his office has discovered an additional $150,000 was taken from a 97-year-old woman with dementia by former workers at Lincoln Park nursing home.
In all, five former workers as well as a home care nurse and a hairstylist are accused of conning Grace Watanabe out of $750,000 while she stayed at Symphony Residences of Lincoln Park, according to a lawsuit brought by Golbert.
The hairstylist who worked at a salon in the facility has agreed to send back the $15,000 she received from Watanabe, according to the public guardian's office. The hairstylist received a check from Watanabe for that amount in March, the lawsuit said. The woman previously told the Tribune that she thought the money was just a gift from her longtime client.
The lawsuit accuses the other workers -- including an activities director, receptionist and businesses manager -- of cashing large checks from Watanabe and making ATM withdrawals from her accounts for about a year starting in March 2017. The Chicago Police Department had also opened an investigation into the allegations.
In court Thursday, Golbert won approval from Cook County Judge Aicha Marie MacCarthy to partner with a private law firm on the case. The unique arrangement was made with Levin & Perconti, a firm that Golbert selected because of its experience litigating injury and neglect cases in Illinois nursing homes, including with Symphony.
A spokesman for Symphony -- part of a network that operates 24 nursing homes in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin -- said the company has taken steps to prevent this type of exploitation from happening again.
The accused employees no longer work at Symphony, said the spokesman, Ari Kirshner. Staff members have been retrained on the company policy that prohibits them from receiving gifts from residents, Kirshner said.
"We find the employees' behavior abhorrent and against everything we believe in," he said in an emailed statement. He added, "We have built our care model around integrity and compassion."
Golbert was appointed to serve as a temporary guardian for Watanabe, who was never married and has no living relatives.
Watanabe lived at the Lincoln Park facility, 2437 N. Southport Ave., from at least 2010 until she was recently transferred to a new residence, the lawsuit said. Born in California, Watanabe was forcibly relocated to the Poston Japanese internment camp in Arizona between 1942 and 1946, according to online records from the National Archives.
(c)2018 the Chicago Tribune
Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.