Attorney General Cuomo Announces Two Rome Nursing Home Employees Arrested For Stealing And Then Pawning 89-year-old Resident's Engagement Ring

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (November 24, 2008) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the arrests of two Rome nursing home employees for stealing and then pawning an engagement ring belonging to an 89-year-old resident. The arrests stem from Attorney General Cuomo's statewide investigations into abuse and neglect in institutional care settings.

Amanda Thaler, 27, of Dix Road, Rome, was a certified nurse aide at Bethany Gardens Skilled Living Facility. She is charged with petit larceny (class A misdemeanor). Her boyfriend, Sheldon Stoddard, 27, of O'Brien Road, Rome, was a Dietary Technician at Bethany Gardens. He is charged with criminal possession of stolen property in the fifth degree (class A misdemeanor.) Stoddard and Thaler were sent back to the Oneida County Correctional Facility where they are being held on unrelated charges.

"These employees are accused of stealing a personal heirloom with priceless sentimental value from a vulnerable nursing home resident for whom they were supposed to be caring," said Attorney General Cuomo. "Allegations like this demonstrate how nursing home patients can be taken advantage of by those entrusted with their care. Whether it is physical abuse or stealing money or personal possessions, my office is taking significant steps to protect New York's seniors from those who would do them harm."

According to court records, on October 6, 2008 Thaler took two rings, a gold and diamond engagement ring given to the victim by her husband in 1940, and a family ring containing various gemstones. The rings were visibly loose on the victim's finger, and Thaler offered to take and have them fixed so they would not fall off her hand. Approximately a half hour later, the victim requested the rings be returned, but Thaler ignored her. Later in the dining room the victim again called out to Thaler to return the rings, at which point she handed back the family ring, but not the engagement ring.

According to court records, when pressed for the engagement ring, Thaler responded that she was feeling ill and needed to leave work. She called her boyfriend and co-worker Stoddard to come pick her up at the nursing home. She proceeded to give him the ring and they drove together to a pawn shop where they sold it for $15.00. Thaler and Stoddard have since been terminated from Bethany Gardens. The engagement ring was recovered and is being held by the Rome Police Department as evidence.

Attorney General Cuomo has made protecting New York's most vulnerable from abuses by health care professionals one of his office's top priorities. To date, his ongoing nursing home investigations, including the use of hidden-cameras, have led to the arrests or convictions of more than 46 nursing home employees, including cases in Rochester and Cortland.

Attorney General Cuomo thanks the Rome Police Department for its role in the investigation and arrest.

Chief Kevin Beach of the Rome Police Department said, "Nursing home abuse of any kind will not be tolerated in the city of Rome. Thanks to good police work and cooperation at all levels of law enforcement we were able to make an arrest in this alleged engagement ring theft."

The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

Attorney General Cuomo urges New Yorkers who witness or suspect incidences of patient abuse or Medicaid fraud to call his office at 1-866-NYS-FIGHT (697-3444).

The case is being handled by Special Assistant Attorney General Paul Berry of the Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit ("MFCU"). The investigation was handled by MFCU Special Investigator Christopher M. Burns under the supervision of Supervising Special Investigator Mike Brady, and by Detective James Boyer of the Rome Police Department.