Friday, October 11, 2019

Ex-guardian Rebecca Fierle charged Altamonte Springs facility $100K, illegally pocketed refunds, investigation finds

By Monivette Cordeiro and Jeff Weiner

Former Orlando guardian Rebecca Fierle improperly billed an Altamonte Springs assisted living facility almost $100,000 to provide services to their vulnerable patients and pocketed refunds the facility issued to her incapacitated clients, according to a newly released state investigation.

After confronting Fierle about her “excessive" invoices, the facility ultimately told her to find other “places for her wards to reside," according to the investigation.

It’s the second time the disgraced guardian has been accused of illegally profiting from her work handling the affairs of vulnerable adults in financial arrangements not approved by a court. An audit by Orange County Comptroller Phil Diamond’s office found Fierle billed AdventHealth nearly $4 million for services she provided to the hospital’s patients, often double billing those patients for the same service.

Fierle is not currently facing charges, but is under criminal investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and other agencies after one of her wards, 75-year-old Steven Stryker, died at a Tampa hospital because staff were unable to perform life-saving measures due to a “do not resuscitate” order the guardian filed against his wishes and refused to remove.

Fierle’s work with the Altamonte Springs facility has also been referred to the FDLE for criminal investigation, according to a report obtained Thursday by the Orlando Sentinel.

“We referred this case to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) because we determined there was probable cause to allege that criminal activity occurred,” wrote Andrew Thurman, an auditor and investigator with the Okaloosa County Clerk of Courts and Comptroller.

Thurman was not able to interview Fierle. Neither she nor her attorneys responded immediately to an immediate request for comment.

The former executive director of that facility, the name of which was redacted from the report, told Thurman that he was initially “relieved” when Fierle was appointed guardian for some of its patients, who had racked up significant medical bills they could not pay.

The ex-director said he hoped Fierle could get the wards signed up for benefits and start paying their outstanding bills.

Instead, he said, Fierle started sending the facility bills of her own.

Between 2008 to 2015, the facility paid Fierle about $99,000 for her services to 16 residents at the facility, six of whom were her court-appointed wards in Seminole County. The guardian charged the facility for work related to petitioning the court for guardianship, as well as guardian fees, which are typically charged to a ward’s existing assets.

The investigation determined Fierle never reported or disclosed the payments she was getting from the facility to the court — a violation of state law.

“Because the funds Fierle received ... were not approved by the court or shown on the annual accounting, they represent an undisclosed indirect financial interest in the guardianship,” Thurman wrote.

In late 2016, facility staff held a meeting with Fierle where they questioned the guardian about her billing practices and told Fierle her invoices “seemed to be excessive.” They also confronted her about her wards’ outstanding medical bills, the report said.

When staff did not find Fierle’s responses “sufficient,” they asked the guardian to move her clients out and not place any more of her clients at their facility.

The investigation began in response to an anonymous Oct. 31, 2017, complaint to the state’s Office of Public and Professional Guardians alleging Fierle was receiving direct payments from the facility. OPPG, which has faced a firestorm of criticism for its handling of grievances against guardians, sent the complaint to the Okaloosa Clerk’s office on April 2 — 17 months after the complaint was submitted — to investigate.

As Thurman was interviewing the facility’s staff, the current executive director gave him copies of checks the facility gave Fierle related to refunds owed to her incapacitated patients.

The director told Thurman that, when a ward left the facility or died, the facility would issue a check to Fierle for any overpayments or petty cash the facility was holding for the wards to use. Thurman noted that, while payments for guardianship services were made out to Fierle’s company, Geriatric Management, the refund checks were made payable to Fierle — directly.

Thurman found no evidence Fierle returned that money to the ward’s estate after analyzing annual accountings the guardian filed with the court, according to the report.

Full Article & Source:
Ex-guardian Rebecca Fierle charged Altamonte Springs facility $100K, illegally pocketed refunds, investigation finds 

See Also:
Florida Elder Affairs chief announces ‘immediate’ changes as embattled Orlando guardian Rebecca Fierle resigns from all cases

Florida professional guardian Rebecca Fierle: Devoted or dangerous? | Exclusive

Cremated remains of 9 people found at Orlando office of disgraced former guardian Rebecca Fierle

Expert’s complaint against Florida guardian Rebecca Fierle was ignored for years before scandal erupted | Exclusive

Orlando guardian accused of filing unauthorized ‘do not resuscitate’ orders resigns from Seminole cases

Watchdog: In Short Hearing, Fierle Given Guardianship Over Patient

Judge releases confidential information to authorities investigating former Orlando guardian Rebecca Fierle

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