Former Caregivers Plead Guilty to Violating Rights of Resident with Developmental Disability
Sherry K. Paulo, 54, and Anthony R. Flores, 59, husband and wife, and former employees of a Missouri residential treatment facility, pleaded guilty today in federal court in the Western District of Missouri to criminal civil rights charges arising from the death of C.D., a Missouri ward of the state with developmental disabilities. Paulo and Flores each pleaded guilty to one count of willfully failing to provide necessary medical care to C.D., resulting in injury to and the death of C.D. Paulo also pleaded guilty to one count of health care fraud arising from her efforts to hide the fact of C.D.’s death.
“The defendants were entrusted with caring for some of our society’s most vulnerable individuals, who cannot advocate or care for themselves,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division. “They abused that trust by depriving the victim of obvious and necessary medical care and then taking extraordinary measures to cover up their wrongdoing. The Department of Justice will continue to hold accountable those who commit such violations.”
“They were responsible to provide care to a vulnerable victim, but today admitted they ignored obvious signs of medical distress and failed to even call 911. Instead, they hid him away in their unfinished basement until he died,” said U.S. Attorney Tim Garrison of the Western District of Missouri. “They may have thought they could hide the body in a concrete-filled crate and get away with it. But when the civil rights of a vulnerable victim are violated, we will hold them accountable for their inhumane and criminal conduct.”
“The FBI is the primary federal agency responsible for investigating allegations regarding violations of federal civil rights, and we continue to hold that responsibility as a top priority,” said Timothy R. Langan, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Kansas City, Missouri. “When individuals, such as the defendants, abuse their power and neglect their responsibility to care for some of our most susceptible and defenseless members of society, it is not only wrong, it is criminal. Today's guilty plea emphasizes the continued commitment to hold all perpetrators accountable.”
“Flores and Paulo not only let C.D. die, they then compounded their crime by hiding the body in a storage unit,” said Curt L. Muller, Special Agent in Charge of the Office of Inspector General. “We will continue working with our law enforcement partners to fight for such vulnerable people and the government health programs upon which they depend.”
According to the plea agreements, Paulo and Flores worked as caregivers at Second Chance Homes, an organization that provided housing and care for developmentally disabled persons through a Missouri Department of Mental Health initiative. Victim C.D. had been a resident at Second Chance Homes since 2008.
Paulo and Flores admitted in their pleas that they observed C.D.’s health decline beginning in 2014. C.D. became unhealthily underweight and pale, and he grew more obviously ill over a period of several months. During this time, Paulo occasionally took C.D. out of his designated residence and put him in the basement of the personal home she shared with Flores.
C.D. suffered an acute medical emergency while in the basement of Flores’s and Paulo’s personal home. Despite observing C.D.’s physical distress and obvious medical need at that time, Paulo and Flores admitted that they purposefully did not seek medical care for C.D. C.D. died while in Flores’s and Paulo’s personal home.
In the plea agreement, Paulo admitted that she subsequently placed C.D.’s body in a trashcan and transported it to C.D.’s assigned residence, where she and Flores put it in a wooden crate and filled the wooden crate with cement. Paulo and Flores then transported the crate to Paulo’s storage unit.
Medicaid provided funding for C.D.’s care at Second Chance Homes. Paulo admitted that after C.D. died, she submitted, or caused to be submitted, claims to Medicaid for services that she purportedly rendered to C.D. Paulo admitted that at the time she submitted, or caused to be submitted, those claims, she knew that C.D. was dead and that the claims were thus false. The amount wrongfully paid by Medicaid, between approximately September 2016 and April 2017, was $106,795.00.
Paulo also admitted that on April 17, 2017, she reported C.D. missing to the Fulton, Missouri Police Department. Paulo and Flores both admitted that they falsely told the police that they had seen C.D. alive and well, even after they knew C.D. was deceased.
Under Paulo’s plea agreement, she faces a maximum of 210 months incarceration. Under Flores’s plea agreement, he faces a maximum of 188 months incarceration. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.
This case was investigated by the Jefferson City Resident Agency of the FBI Kansas City Division and the St. Louis Field Office of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General Kansas City Region. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Cindi Woolery and Gregg Coonrod of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Special Litigation Counsel Julia Gegenheimer and Trial Attorney Janea Lamar of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Criminal Section. The Fulton, Missouri Police Department and Callaway County Prosecutor Christopher Wilson contributed significantly to the successful investigation and prosecution of this matter.