Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said he is “aggressively prosecuting” cases against the former owner and nine former managers or employees of a now-closed assisted living facility who have been charged with a total of 76 counts.
The charges against those associated with Chappy’s Golden Shores in Hill City, MN, include manslaughter, assault, neglect, racketeering, theft, operating a comprehensive home care facility without a license, concealing the proceeds of these crimes, perjury and obstructing the state’s criminal investigation.
“My office is holding these defendants accountable for what we believe we can prove is systematic, intolerable abuse and neglect that in one case led to death, not to mention widespread fraud, theft and other charges that hurt everyone,” Ellison said in announcing the charges on Tuesday. The criminal complaint had been filed on the previous day.
Theresa Olson, the former owner of the facility, faces 25 of the charges, including one count of manslaughter in the death of a resident. The felonies and misdemeanors carry a combined maximum penalty of 140 years and 90 days in prison (if sentences were to be served consecutively) and/or $1.5 million in fines.
Defense attorney Jason Steck told the local media: “We are reviewing the charges and awaiting receipt of the State’s evidence. Ms. Olson maintains her innocence and looks forward to her vindication in court.”
Other defendants include Benjiman Howard Swanson, with whom Olson shares an infant, as well as Olson’s sister, daughter, two nieces and four other women.
Ellison’s office said it began investigating the facility earlier this year, reviewing more than 1 million pages of documents and digital evidence as well as interviewing dozens of Chappy’s residents and employees, medical professionals, social workers, guardians and other witnesses.
Investigators allegedly found that Olson and others billed Medicaid for more than $2.1 million in healthcare services that were not provided or were not covered. Olson and her husband, Keith, allegedly withdrew more than $1.7 million of those payments from Chappy’s bank account.
Additionally, according to the complaint, defendants did not provide proper healthcare, supervision, food or shelter to residents.
“Chappy’s owner, management and employees went to substantial efforts to conceal this criminal conduct, and continued to provide services to residents after [the Minnesota Department of Health] suspended Chappy’s license,” the complaint states.
The manslaughter charge alleges that improper medical care and neglect led to the October 2018 death of a 72-year-old resident, identified as “R.M.,” from septic shock, an untreated urinary tract infection, dysphagia and pneumonia complications. “The medical providers who treated R.M. just before his death described R.M.’s catheter as filthy and characterized his 25 x 25 cm pressure sore as ‘[one of] the worst [they] had ever seen,’ ” the attorney general’s office said.
The signature of a registered nurse who used to work at Chappy’s was forged on R.M.’s medical records and other records to hide the fact that the facility did not have a registered nurse on staff to assess and oversee services provided to residents, according to the complaint.
“Chappy’s Golden Shores has also been the subject of repeated disciplinary and administrative actions by the Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Department of Human Services,” the attorney general’s office said.