Kentucky

Former nursing home inspector to plead guilty to cover-up charges

One of the state's former top nursing home inspectors and a former state-employed nurse have pleaded guilty to charges that they tried to cover up the inspector's unethical relationship with a nursing home operator.

Moses Young, 49, an assistant director with the Office of Inspector General, and Sharon Harris, 59, a nurse with the Department for Public Health, pleaded guilty to one count each of making false statements, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Both were fired by the state in 2008 after investigators learned they each lived in Lexington homes owned by Ralph Stacey Jr.

At the time, Stacey owned Garrard Convalescent Home in Covington, according to documents previously released by the cabinet.

An April 1 indictment against Young alleged that Young lived rent-free from July 2005 to March 2008 in a condominium owned by a third party, identified in documents only as "R.S."

In exchange, the indictment alleged, Young provided R.S. with inside agency information and instructions that would assist R.S. in passing inspections and obtaining favorable treatment with regard to administrative actions of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

A plea agreement filed Monday in U.S. District Court at Frankfort said Young admitted that he and others made bogus rent receipts and presented them to a federal grand jury. In exchange for the guilty plea, prosecutors said they would drop the charge related to Young allegedly providing inside information.

Young admitted that he lived rent-free in a condominium owned by a "third party" in violation of state ethics rules, according to Young's plea agreement.

The plea agreement described how a federal grand jury in Lexington began to investigate whether Young was paying rent, and if not, whether the free rent was actually an illegal bribe.

In her plea agreement, Harris admitted that she had "watched as others fabricated the receipts to thwart a criminal investigation."

Her plea agreement said she told an FBI agent in April 2009 that she knew the rent receipts Young provided were genuine because she had personally delivered the receipts over time to the landlord.

"The defendant knew that the statement was false in that Moses Young did not pay rent and she did not transport cash for payment of rent," her plea agreement said.

Both charges to which Young and Harris pleaded guilty carry a prison sentence of not more than five years, a fine of not more than $250,000 and a term of supervised release of not more than three years.

Attorneys for Young and Harris did not return a telephone call late Monday afternoon.

Cabinet spokeswoman Vikki Franklin said Thursday that Young and Harris have appealed their firings.

Last year, the cabinet's Office of Inspector General implemented a policy designed to avoid similar situations. It requires employees within the office's Division of Health Care whose work relates to nursing home inspections to complete an extensive conflict of interest questionnaire upon being hired and at annual employee evaluations.

An employee who knowingly supplies the division with inaccurate and incomplete information, or fails to complete the questionnaire as required, is subject to progressive disciplinary procedures, Franklin said.

Meanwhile, Garrard Convalescent Home changed ownership in August 2009. The nursing home no longer exists under that name. The beds previously assigned to Garrard have been relocated to another Covington nursing home, cabinet spokeswoman Beth Fisher has said.

Sentencing hearings for Young and Harris are scheduled for Nov. 23 in U.S. District Court in Frankfort.

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