Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Nursing home owner who left 800 in fetid warehouse during hurricane jailed

by Ramon Antonio Vargas 

Homes and businesses damaged after the hurricane tore through Louisiana. Photograph: Adrees Latif/Reuters

A Louisiana nursing home owner who sent more than 800 elderly residents to endure Hurricane Ida in a ramshackle warehouse was charged on Wednesday with neglect and other crimes.

Bob Dean, 68, surrendered to the Louisiana attorney general’s office and was jailed on eight counts of cruelty to infirmed people, five counts of healthcare fraud and two counts of obstruction of justice.

A statement from Louisiana’s attorney general, Jeff Landry, alleged that Dean had billed the federal Medicaid program for dates his residents were not receiving care, refused to move residents out of the warehouse and “engaged in conduct intended to intimidate or obstruct public health officials and law enforcement”.

Dean flew in from Georgia to turn himself over to authorities on an arrest warrant they obtained for him in recent days. His attorney, John McClindon, told the Associated Press that his client would be released on a $350,000 bond.

McClindon added: “I don’t think Bob Dean did anything that rose to the level of criminal.”

The criminal charges mark only the latest set of complications for Dean, who is facing a mound of unresolved civil litigation over his decision to send residents to the squalid warehouse in Independence, a town about 70 miles (110km) north-west of New Orleans while Ida caused widespread power outages and other devastation in south-east Louisiana in August 2021.

Besides losing his licenses and federal funding to operate his seven nursing homes in Louisiana, his attorneys have said Dean is battling dementia and other memory problems.

Bob Dean in an image provided by the Tangipahoa parish sheriff’s office. Photograph: AP

He is facing an unrelated reckless conduct criminal charge in Georgia after he shot his thumb off and Oregon authorities are investigating him after cattle from his ranch in that state had to be rescued from a snowstorm, the Baton Rouge Advocate newspaper reported.

Authorities say some of the residents Dean’s nursing homes sent to the Independence warehouse were found sleeping on mattresses atop a wet floor, sobbing and lying in their own feces.

Some came without their medicines to endure a Category 4 storm packing winds of 150 miles an hour. Conditions at the facility devolved rapidly, with generators used to provide electricity failing, driving indoor temperatures to dangerously high levels. The ceiling leaked, toilets overflowed and there was a dearth of food and water for residents who were packed in so closely it was impossible to follow social distancing guidelines in place because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Five of the 26 deaths that occurred in Louisiana for reasons related to Ida were linked to the fetid warehouse, according to officials, who had since launched an investigation into Dean and his nursing homes.

A total of more than a dozen others who had been at the facility died in the aftermath of Ida’s landfall in the state on 29 August, the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

The most serious charges filed against Dean are the ones alleging cruelty to people with infirmities. Under Louisiana law, any one of those counts can carry up to 10 years in prison if he is convicted.

Dean owns two nursing homes in New Orleans, three in adjacent Jefferson parish and one each in nearby Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes. All of those areas directly experienced Ida’s effects.

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