A woman in New Jersey is facing charges of mail fraud after allegedly stealing from a patient at the assistant living center where she worked. If convicted, she could spend decades in prison.
According to a report from The Daily Record—a newspaper based in the Parsippany-Troy Hills, New Jersey area—the defendant is Marcella Drakeford, who currently lives in Florida but was previously employed as a business manager at Spring Hills Morristown.
Spring Hills Morristown is affiliated with Spring Hills Senior Communities, which has assisted living communities in New Jersey, Florida, Nevada, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia. Spring Hills conducted a “state-required criminal background check” on Drakeford when she was hired in March 2015, per an article published by McKnight’s Senior Living.
While working at Spring Hills Morristown, Drakeford was given “limited access” to a resident’s checking account to help that person with their finances. The authorization only granted Drakeford permission to pay for the patient’s living expenses and care. Allegations against Drakeford state she had already gained access to the resident’s credit cards without the knowledge or authorization of the patient or their family. Drakeford even used the resident’s credit card accounts to issue two cards in her own name.
Once she had access to the resident’s checking account, Drakeford allegedly started cutting checks to pay off the credit card bills. The credit card spending was allegedly considerable, including charges for everything from clothing and vacations to bills and dental work. Drakeford’s indictment documents indicate she charged more than $237,000 to the cards and checking account between October 2016 and May 2017.
This case wouldn’t be the first instance of an employee at a nursing care facility stealing from a patient.
A family member of the patient noticed the missing funds and contacted Spring Hills Morristown about the discrepancy. Spring Hills suspended Drakeford and notified the authorities, who worked with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to investigate the mail fraud. Drakeford was later arrested in Florida and brought back to New Jersey to face charges. She has since been charged with six counts of mail fraud—each a felony fraud charge with a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
This case illustrates why in-depth background checks at senior care facilities and for in-home senior care providers are becoming increasingly commonplace. Criminal screenings aren’t enough in these situations. Detailed reference verification checks, credit history checks, civil history checks, and searches of abuse, neglect, and sex offender registries are important for developing a fuller picture of who someone is.
While civil court checks and credit history checks are not extremely common in employment situations, they can indicate financial habits and other red flags that might predict fraud or theft. Some states and local jurisdictions have regulations that prohibit the use of credit checks for employment purposes. Always adhere to the guidelines and restrictions in your state.
Spring Hill Senior Communities claims this kind of scenario has never occurred at one of its establishments before. The business noted it does not typically allow employees to handle financial transactions for patients, and that the agreement between Drakeford and the unidentified resident was a “personal arrangement” not condoned or endorsed by the company.