Welcome To The Neighborhood! Look Who is Running the Homestead

Posted: July 30, 2012 in County Wide
Tags: , , , , , ,

We know that the dynamic duo of Phil Crabb and Rich Zeoli did the selling job, but did any of the three other members of the Sussex County Freeholder Board know about the shocking history of SentosaCare LLC? Or is it the case, as one wag put it, of a county administrator who thinks he’s an elected county executive?

Last Thursday night, the Freeholder Board voted to sell the county’s nursing home, the Homestead, to SentosaCare for $7.85 million. SentosaCare was one of several bidders on the facility at an auction held July 18th.

While Crabb and Zeoli tried to assure everyone that “all current staff will be interviewed for their own jobs” and the county executive… err, county administrator assured the freeholders that the county had done its “due diligence” on SentosaCare, we wonder if the Freeholders were ever told about what SentosaCare is?

SentosaCare is one of a group of privately owned companies with the same investors. They are big in the business of importing nursing staff to the United States from places like the Philippines. So much for American jobs, but it is much worse than that.

In 2009, one of SentosaCare’s affiliated companies, a home health care agency, was ordered to give back more than $3.7 million in wrongfully obtained Medicaid funds. According to a joint probe by the state attorney general and the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn, the company knowingly employed home aides with fraudulent certifications. Andrew Cuomo, then the New York Attorney General said: “The size of this settlement underscores the seriousness of the allegations.”

The big shocker regarding SentosaCare is the case brought against it for importing 27 nurses from the Philippines and having them sign contracts that essentially imposed indentured servitude on them. A New York state court has ruled on this. You can view the entire ruling here.

The state court opinion held that “the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, enacted at the conclusion of the Civil War primarily to abolish the institution of slavery, declares that involuntary servitude shall not be permitted to exist within the United States.”

The court documents state that the nurses were brought to the United States under false pretenses and housed in substandard conditions:

“Under the terms of these employment contracts, the nurses were to receive free travel to the United States, two months of free housing and medical coverage, training, and assistance in obtaining legal residency and nursing licenses. In recognition of the substantial expenses incurred in the recruitment process, the contracts required the nurses to give their prospective employers a three-year commitment, and provided for liquidated damages in the amount of $25,000 should the nurses fail to honor their commitment.

When the nurses arrived in the United States, they learned that they would be working for an employment agency instead of the specific nursing homes they had signed contracts with, which allegedly is a lower paid and less stable form of employment.”

According to court documents the nurses “were housed in a single-family staff house with only one bathroom, inadequate heat, and no telephone service. After informal oral complaints about their working conditions and pay went unheeded, in February and March of 2006 the nurses wrote several letters to Sentosa and Avalon Gardens outlining their concerns, including the failure to compensate them properly for overtime and night shifts, short staffing, and last minute shift changes.”

The nurses met an attorney who advised them to quit their employment, which they did. The nurses filed a civil lawsuit against Sentosa Care and SentosaCare filed a civil lawsuit against the nurses, but then apparently decided to go one further. According to Long Island’s New York Newsday (December 18, 2009), SentosaCare used its political muscle as a major campaign cash donor to get a criminal indictment against the nurses and their attorney:

“SentosaCare became enmeshed in a nursing labor dispute in April 2006, when more than two dozen of the group’s immigrant Filipino nurses resigned at once in 2006, complaining about working conditions. SentosaCare attorney Howard Fensterman, a prominent Democratic Party fundraiser, personally asked Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota to press charges. Spota, a Democrat, once received a $1,500 campaign contribution from Fensterman.

Spota began a probe leading to a grand jury indictment of 10 nurses from Avalon Gardens Rehabilitation and Health Care Center in Smithtown on charges of endangering pediatric patients by quitting.

Spota has said the campaign contribution played no role in the prosecution.

In January, the state Appellate Division, Second Department, ended the prosecution, saying it essentially forced the nurses into involuntary servitude.

The nurses’ case took on a political tinge when contributions to a fund controlled by Sen. Charles Schumer were uncovered. SentosaCare affiliates gave almost $75,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 2006 after Schumer wrote letters to Philippines government officials, including President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, asking them to meet with SentosaCare to resolve the dispute with the nurses.”

Newsday (January 7, 2010) continues the story:

Ten Filipino nurses and their attorney filed a federal lawsuit yesterday against Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota, the county and the nursing home company that sought unsuccessfully to prosecute them.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Central Islip, seeks unspecified damages resulting from criminal charges brought against the immigrant nurses that an Appellate Court last year determined were unconstitutional.

“It was a malicious prosecution,” said Oscar Michelen of Mineola, who represents Felix Vinluan, an immigration attorney who had advised the nurses and also faced criminal charges. “It violated their due process rights.”

In March 2007, Spota won indictments against the nurses and Vinluan after the nurses quit their jobs at Avalon Gardens Rehabilitation and Health Care Center in Smithtown.

The nurses, Filipino immigrants recruited by the nursing home company SentosaCare of Woodmere, said they resigned together in April 2006, because of bad working conditions and disputes over pay and benefits.

SentosaCare officials met with Spota the next month. The district attorney then determined that the resignations caused a staffing crisis that could have harmed the critically ill children, some of whom were on ventilator units.

The nurses had been earlier cleared of wrongdoing by the state education department, but they were then charged with endangering the welfare of children. Vinluan, who advised the nurses of their right to resign, was charged with criminal solicitation.

These were apparently the first such charges in the state, and they sparked an outcry from groups in the Philippines and in New York.

Last January, the state’s Appellate Division declared that the criminal proceedings were unconstitutional because they violated the nurses’ rights to be free from slavery.

A spokesman for Spota did not return a call for comment yesterday.

The New York Supreme Court decided that SentosaCare’s lawsuit against the nurses attorney was unconstitutional (Newsday, May 26, 2010):

A Westbury attorney whose advice to Filipino immigrant nurses about quitting en masse from a nursing home became the subject of a Suffolk criminal prosecution later declared unconstitutional will not have to face a lawsuit accusing him of organizing the resignations, a judge has ruled.

State Supreme Court Justice Stephen Bucaria last Thursday ruled that immigration attorney Felix Vinluan’s legal advice was immune from a lawsuit filed by Woodmere-based SentosaCare, one of the state’s biggest nursing home groups. Sentosa had accused him of persuading large numbers of nurses to resign to hurt its business.

A jubilant Vinluan yesterday called the ruling “vindication.”

Bucaria, in Mineola, also ruled that 38 nurses who have quit their jobs at 11 SentosaCare nursing homes in the New York City area will not face penalties of $25,000 each for resigning before the end of their three-year contracts.

SentosaCare, through an affiliated agency, arranged the nurses’ work visas, paid for their air travel to the United States and found housing for them in New York. The nurses complained that their living conditions, their pay and their assignments were different from promised.

The dispute drew international headlines when Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota announced criminal charges against Vinluan and 10 nurses who resigned on the same day in April 2006 from Avalon Gardens Rehabilitation and Health Care Center in Smithtown.

In January 2009, a state appellate court stripped Spota of power to continue with the prosecution, ruling Vinluan’s advice was protected by the First Amendment and the nurses’ resignations by the ban on involuntary servitude.

The story is picked up by the Long Island Business News (September 30, 2010):

Attorney Howard Fensterman, who serves as the Long Island finance chairman for gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo and U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, is being sued for misappropriating $18 million and bilking $1.6 million from three prominent Nassau County businessmen.

The lawsuit filed in a Delaware court in June claims Fensterman was part of a scheme that sought out investors for a venture called American Gulf Insurance in Dubai. The company was supposed to capitalize on a growing need for personal and commercial insurance in the Persian Gulf region. Instead, Fensterman told developers Jan Burman and Steven Krieger from Garden City-based Engel Burman Group and caterer Scott Morrell from Morrell Caterers in Woodbury that their investment in American Gulf, a total of $1.6 million, had been “stolen by members of a royal family in Dubai.”

Fensterman, a partner at Abrams, Fensterman, Fensterman, Eisman, Greenberg, Formato and Einiger in Lake Success, didn’t return a request for comment. Other defendants named in the suit include Michael J. Weinberg, Emer Rustom, Azzam Rustom, Florida-based Gateway Insurance International, and several others.

Burman, Krieger and Morrell are represented in the case by Michael Leon from Jaspan Schlesinger.

Fensterman previously got into hot water when, as the attorney for SentosaCare, a nursing home operator, he held a “secret meeting” with Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota regarding a 2007 walkout of 37 nurses at the Avalon Gardens Rehabilitation and Health Care Center in Smithtown.

And back to Newsday again (April 2, 2011):

A federal judge’s ruling may result in Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota’s being questioned about the propriety of a probe that led to charges – since dismissed – against a group of immigrant nurses.

On Thursday U.S. District Judge Joseph Bianco allowed a civil rights lawsuit to proceed against Spota, a top assistant, Leonard Lato, and the Woodmere nursing home firm SentosaCare. The suit says the defendants conspired to prosecute 10 nurses and their Westbury attorney, Felix Vinluan, in retaliation for a mass resignation from a Smithtown SentosaCare facility.

Oscar Michelen, a Mineola attorney for Vinluan, said he would soon set up a lengthy session to question Spota under oath. “We’ll be able to show that these charges should never have been brought,” he said.

In 2007, a year after they resigned en masse from Avalon Gardens Rehabilitation and Health Care Center to protest working conditions, the nurses were indicted. Vinluan was charged with conspiracy for advising them on the resignations. SentosaCare, whose affiliate recruited the nurses from the Philippines, said the resignations caused a staffing crisis.

A state appeals court – in a rare move – threw out the charges before the case got to trial, ruling they violated free speech and anti-slavery rights.

The federal case against SentosaCare is on-going, with another document filed the day after the Sussex County Freeholders approved the sale. Depending on how the case develops, this could be a major embarrassment for the Board and for Sussex County.

But the question remains: Did any of the Freeholders, besides Crabb and Zeoli, know about this? Did the county’s administrative and legal wallahs apprise the elected decision makers about any of this? Did the freeholders get to read the on-going federal case: Docket 10-cv-00032, filed in the Eastern District of New York?

SentosaCare has been around for less than ten years, and the Homestead will be its first footprint in New Jersey. Involuntary servitude, secret meetings, conspiracy, using political muscle to get opponents prosecuted, violating free speech, slavery… SLAVERY???… WTF!!!

That’s slavery… as in S-L-A-V-E-R-Y. You know, the thing they formed the Republican Party to fight and to end. Slavery!

Thanks to Crabb and Zeoli we have new neighbors.

Stay tuned.

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Comments
  1. The kid says:

    Oh yeah St Ben Landa…he made millions fleecing the taxpayers of NYS when Pataki was governor…no surprise he was front and center when Pataki announced for POTUS…Landa, Fensterman, Philpson should all be indicted by the end of 2015

  2. john says:

    i know Ben Landa he is an amazing owner – operator all the stuff written in papers about him are false my freind was a patient there and she said she never received such good care stop mocking good people

  3. Dotsy Maher says:

    ALSO…TAKE VERY CAREFUL NOTE OF THE “DOCTORS” INVOLVED

  4. Dotsy Maher says:

    YOU ARE ON THE RIGHT TRACK…..FENSTERMAN IS THE TYPE OF CREEP THAT WILL BENEFIT FROM OBMACARE….BUT SOMEONE MUST PUSH PRETTY BOY CUOMO AND SCHUMER TO STOP TAKING MONEY FROM FENSTERMAN AND GET SEARCH WARRANTS TO INVESTIGATE RAMPANT PATIENT ABUSE AND MEDICARE..MEDICAIDE..AND SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY FRAUD IN FENSTERMAN’S HUGE NUMBER OF INFERIOR NURSING HOMES…..
    EVERY PATIENT….. FROM ADMITION TO DEATH( INCLUDING HOW LONG THEY WAIT TO REPORT THE DEATHS) MUST BE AUDITED NOW…..
    THIS IS A HUGE PROFITABLE GENOCIDE BEING OPERATED AS AN OPEN SECRET BECAUSE OF CUOMO AND SCHUMER SETTING THE PICKS FOR THIS CREEP….MANY MORE PUBLIC “SERVANTS” ARE ALSO PAID OFF THROUGH FUNDRAISING…..BUT THESE TWO CLOWNS ARE THE TOP TWO KEEPING THIS SCAM GOING

    • The kid says:

      Yup these clowns want Pataki to be POTUS so they can bill healthcare for billions nationwide. Look at ANY nursing home Landa Philipson or Densterman own and all their patient care scores are below average. They buy up struggling homes to get a better bed rate and pocket all the crash while pretending to be mensches

  5. rayjay says:

    Where can I get copies of these quoted newspaper articles? The Sussex Library system doesn’t seem to have it. I would like to read the full article and send it to the licensing board in Trenton.

    • Julia says:

      The community college or Rutgers will have it.

    • Dotsy Maher says:

      Michael Amon and Ridgely Ochs first broke the story in Newsday…”HOW A LONG ISLAND NUSING HOME EMPIRE GOT IT’S WAY”
      also…Joseph Berger in NY Times “FILIPONO NURSES HEALERS IN TROUBLE” Jan 27,2008
      also..Micharl Amon and Ridgelet Ochs in Newsday “DID NURSING HOME COMPANY BUY SCHUMER’S HELP”

      THESE SHOW THE DIRECT CONNECTION

      also Google HOWARD FENSTERMAN…BENJAMIN LANDA AND BENT PHILIPSON AND THEIR DONATIONS TO SCHUMER…CUOMO….AMD MANY LI POLITICIANS…..SOMETIMES FENSTERMAN IS LISTED AS ATTY FRO THEM BUT HE’S THE MASTERMINF BEHIND ALL OF THIS….CHECK OUT SOME OF HIS OTHER EXPLOITS SUCH AS HIS UAE SCAM…..HE HAS ALSP RIPPED OFF VENDORS….HE GETS PAID WITH TAXPAYER MONEY ….AND YHEN DOESN’T PAY THE VENDORS….LOOK AT HIS TRYING TO JACK HIS FORMER FRIEND MORRELL……THIS IS A RICO GROUP OF WEASELS…..DON’T LET THEM GET A FOOTHOLD IN NJ!

  6. Phil says:

    Thanks Rich Zeoli, trying to rat out his own members.

    What Rich doesn’t want ANYONE to know is that he never gave Space and Vohden the file on SentosaCare, just like he never told them about the subcommittee to take over SWAC’s job on trash.

    • The kid says:

      Just google Ben Landa…he’s a crook…every time he buys a nursing home the seller has to sue to get their money…and Fensterman is his “bag man”

  7. Rob says:

    The vote was 4-1 which means Space and Vohden also voted to sell the Homestead. Sue Zellman was the only no vote. The site owners don’t want you to know that though.

  8. julibee says:

    Mayor Marotta’s shill is at it again trying to defend the enslavement of these women on the Vernon forum. These people are scum.

  9. Earl says:

    Slavery is in the bible so a lot of nuts will think nothing is wrong with it. Free trade too.

  10. Pete says:

    Looks like you made the right choice in backing two candidates who supported the sale. Good luck, Sussex County.

  11. julibee says:

    A shill for Mayor Marotta is posting pro-slavery comments on the Vernon forum. Must be a connection.

    http://www.nj.com/forums/vernon/

  12. Julia says:

    Crabb and Zeoli are the two freeholders who appointed themself to the trash subcommittee that did away with SWAC. I guess they will do for the county’s trash what they did for the county’s nursing home.

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