— By CHRISTIN COYNE
Lawsuits and bounced employee payroll checks are plaguing a local nursing home that has had its share of financial problems in recent years.
Several companies and employees are claiming Crescent Senior Care owes them money for services provided. The Democrat spoke with four employees at Crescent Senior Care who said their recent employment checks have not been honored, leaving them unable to pay rent or buy gas to go to work.
Company officials say this week’s payroll will be met and the checks honored, saying the issue responsible for the most recent incident has been resolved.
Facility administrator Douglas Meharry said recent paycheck issues stem from a holdup in receiving Medicaid funds. The company blamed the federal contractor responsible for delays in making payments to providers like Crescent.
They have been operating off Medicare and private pay money in recent months but the issue was just resolved and they are paying employees, Meharry said Wednesday.
“I haven’t even paid myself right now,” Meharry said.
All of the facility’s residents are being cared for, Meharry said, adding that the facility has plenty of food and supplies for the residents and the results of a recent annual state survey were positive. There are currently about 90 residents in the Hilltop Drive facility licensed for 132 skilled-nursing beds and 40 assisted-living beds.
Crescent employee Carole Lawson, LVN, said she’s worked at the facility since February. She said the bank notified her last week a check she received April 22 bounced. A check she wrote for rent also ended up bouncing and the family had to borrow money to pay for gas, according to Lawson.
Lawson said her calls to Crescent Senior Care were initially ignored but she was given $500 Tuesday after showing up in person. She said she filed a wage claim with the Texas Workforce Commission for the remaining approximately $1,000.
“I’m just really worried about the residents,” Lawson said, expressing concern that the facility would be able to keep good employees after the repeated paycheck issues.
Courtney Hupp, who said she’s worked as a personal care aide in the assisted-living unit for 11 months, reportedly ran into Lawson at the Workforce office Tuesday afternoon after a failed attempt to get payment earlier in the day.
Crescent Senior Care owes her about $700, Hupp said, adding that rent was due and she had no money in her bank account.
“It’s kind of like being paid in Monopoly money,” Hupp said.
Hupp said it was her third bounced paycheck in a row from the facility, though the first two were eventually taken care of.
Debra Lewis, who said she’s worked as an LVN at the facility for about a month, said she took her April 22 check to a local check-cashing business rather than deposit it at her bank because of warnings from coworkers. After the check bounced, Lewis said the check-cashing business informed her they couldn’t reach Crescent Senior Care, and they might forward the $2,000 issue to prosecutors if it goes unaddressed.
An employee at ACE Cash Express in Weatherford told the Democrat that bounced checks written by Crescent have been a big problem for the business the last three to four months, adding that they’ve had issues with an estimated 40 checks per pay period.
Staff at the Weatherford Texas Workforce Commission office declined to answer questions on how many wage claims have been filed against Crescent Senior Care in recent months.
Vendors and lawsuits
Employees said there have been apparent issues with other services provided to the facility as well, including with the phone service and grocery vendor, though they have not caused significant impact to residents.
Meharry said he has a good relationship with the facility’s vendors, saying they have his number and he is up front with them.
Asked about claims that phone service had been cut off due to nonpayment, Meharry said he did make a payment and phone service was “squared away.”
Todd Lindley, who described himself as a principal for Crescent Senior Care, said they are on a cash basis with the grocery vendor.
In addition to the recent issues with the facility’s Medicaid money, Meharry said he inherited many problems from previous management.
The property still has the same owner but leasing and operating arrangements have changed, and a new management team took over operations at the facility in March 2012, the facility told the Democrat last summer.
Department of Aging and Disability Services records indicate that, despite ownership hierarchy changes, the facility’s primary owner has not changed since 2008, when Crescent Senior Care LLC took over from Goldenlife Senior Care Inc.
A man who previously did the billing for Crescent Senior Care made mistakes, causing the facility to be required to pay fines to Medicare, refunds were owed residents and the facility owed money after the previous survey process, according to Meharry.
“It’s been a nightmare,” Meharry said.
Using his personal credit card, he’s paid a lot out of pocket to keep things moving along, Meharry said.
Despite the financial issues, the state’s recent annual survey didn’t find any issues with quality of care or find deficiencies causing residents immediate jeopardy, he said.
“I’m trying my best,” Meharry said. “That’s all I can give my employees right now.”
Employees aren’t the only ones claiming Crescent Senior Care owes them money.
On April 18, Aledo Medicine Store received a summary judgment in their favor, awarding the pharmacy approximately $156,000 plus interest and attorney fees.
Crescent Senior Care failed to appear or respond after being served regarding the allegations they failed to pay the pharmacy for services, the court found.
Lindley said the pharmacy continues to do business with the facility.
Excel X-Ray and DFW Full Spectrum Contractors have also filed lawsuits in Parker County in recent months claiming the company owes them for services provided.
Last week, DFW Full Spectrum Contractors and Consultants filed a petition in Parker County’s 415th District Court alleging the facility owes them more than $164,000 for completed and approved roof and air-conditioning unit work.
The contractor claims the bank withheld a portion of insurance claim money designated for the project and decided to apply it to the debt on the building.
A bank official told the contractor that bank regulators were requiring the bank to bring the loan current or foreclose on the property, the petition states.
Excel X-Ray, which filed suit against Crescent Senior Care and Todd Lindley in February, claims the facility owes more than $13,000 for services provided between November 2010 and January 2013.
James Moon, an attorney representing the company, declined to comment on the litigation.
A one-time attorney, Lindley has been to court over nursing facility company finances in the past. In 2006, a federal grand jury indicted Lindley on 35 counts of mail, wire and bank fraud, alleging he sought investors for a proposed skilled nursing facility in Richardson and misused the funds for his law practice.
The amount of the fraud was around $1.5 million, the U.S. Department of Justice claimed.
After pleading guilty to one count in the 35-count indictment, Lindley was sentenced in 2007 to five years probation, including 90 days in custody, and a $50,000 fine. He was also disbarred.
At the time of the indictment, Lindley was listed as the president and director for Goldenlife Senior Care Inc., the company owning the Weatherford facility, according to state records.
The Democrat was unable to reach Lindley Friday for comment after learning of the fraud conviction and more details about the ownership structure.