Justice Department Informs City of Lexington and Lexington Police Department That Automatically Jailing People for Unpaid Fines Violates Constitution
Three former caregivers in Fulton, Missouri, have been sentenced for their roles in the death of a disabled resident at Second Chance Homes, an organization that provided housing and care for developmentally disabled persons through a Missouri Department of Mental Health initiative.
On Tuesday, September 1, 2020, U.S. District Court Judge Brian C. Wimes sentenced Sherry Paulo to 210 months of imprisonment. Today, Judge Wimes sentenced Anthony Flores to 188 months of imprisonment and Anthony R. K. Flores (“R.K. Flores”) to three years of probation.
On Nov. 22, 2019, Sherry Paulo, 55, and Anthony Flores, 60, each pleaded guilty in federal court in the Western District of Missouri to one count of willfully failing to provide necessary medical care to victim 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 C.D.’s death. On February 12, 2020, R.K. Flores pleaded guilty to one count of knowingly falsifying a document with the intent to impede, obstruct, and influence a federal investigation related to the death of C.D.
“Our caregivers have a moral as well as legal obligation to treat those they are entrusted to care for with respect and protect them from abuse,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division. “In this free country, it is the solemn duty of government to protect all persons, including those who are most vulnerable, from criminal acts that result in the horror that occurred in this case. No one should be confined and left to die in a small, dark basement and then hidden in a trash can filled with cement. The department of Justice will ensure that those who commit acts like these and violate the civil rights of others see justice under the law.”
“These defendants violated their legal and moral obligation to provide medical care to a person with developmentally disabilities, who was dependent upon them, then attempted to cover up their crime beneath layers of deceit and literal concrete,” said U.S. Attorney Tim Garrison of the Western District of Missouri. “Besides substandard care and dismal living conditions, they refused to seek medical treatment for their victim as his health deteriorated. Today the justice system is holding them accountable for their roles in his tragic death.”
“These sentencings are the culmination of the unwavering commitment to seeking justice for those most vulnerable in our society,” said Timothy R. Langan, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Kansas City, Missouri. “The defendants in this case not only failed to provide care for the victim, but took steps to conceal their abuse while continuing to profit from their actions. The FBI remains committed to seeking justice for victims and insuring those responsible are held accountable.”
“These former caregivers committed horrendous crimes against a patient with a developmental disability, while raiding vital Medicaid funds to prop up their alibis,” said Curt L. Muller, Special Agent in Charge of the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to ensure such criminals are brought to justice.”
According to court documents filed in connection with the sentencings, Paulo, Flores, and R.K. Flores worked as caregivers at Second Chance Homes. Victim C.D., who was significantly developmentally disabled and entirely dependent upon his caretakers, had been a resident at Second Chance Homes (SCH) since 2008. Paulo was assigned to care for C.D. in the months leading up to C.D.’s death.
In their guilty pleas, Flores and Paulo admitted that, beginning in 2014, they observed C.D.’s weight decline and his health deteriorate. However, Paulo stopped following C.D.’s prescribed health regimen and stopped taking C.D. to his doctors’ appointments. Paulo and Flores observed C.D. become underweight and pale, struggle to eat, and appear to have less energy. As C.D.’s health deteriorated, Paulo occasionally took C.D. out of his designated SCH residence and put him in the basement of the home she shared with Flores. The basement was small and dark without access to sunlight or running water. Although Paulo and Flores witnessed C.D.’s health continue to decline while in her basement, they did not take C.D. to get necessary medical treatment because they did not want Paulo to be blamed for C.D.’s malnutrition and ill health.
In approximately September 2016, C.D. suffered an acute medical emergency while in the basement room of Paulo and Flores’s home. Despite observing C.D.’s physical distress and obvious medical need, Paulo and Flores chose not to seek medical care for C.D. C.D. died in their home while Paulo and Flores watched. Before his death in or about September 2016, C.D. last saw a doctor in December 2015.
In their plea agreements, Paulo and Flores admitted that, after C.D.’s death, Paulo placed C.D.’s body in a trashcan. Paulo and Flores put the trashcan in a wooden crate that they filled with cement. Paulo, Flores, and R.K. Flores then placed the crate in Paulo’s storage unit.
In the months that followed, Paulo took extensive measures to cover up C.D.’s death. She instructed another SCH resident to lie in C.D.’s bed to convince officials that C.D. was still present at SCH; repeatedly used C.D.’s Electronic Benefits Card; asked an SCH employee to falsely present another SCH resident as C.D. at a doctor’s appointment and get a prescription in C.D.’s name; and falsified numerous official records related to C.D.
In particular, Paulo admitted that after C.D. died, she submitted, or caused to be submitted, false Medicaid claims for services purportedly rendered to C.D. when, as Paulo knew, C.D. was deceased. The amount wrongfully paid by Medicaid, between approximately September 2016 and April 2017, was $106,795.
It was not until April 2017 that the defendants admitted C.D. was no longer at SCH. Paulo reported C.D. missing to the Fulton, Missouri Police Department on April 17, 2017. When interviewed by the police, Paulo, Flores, and R.K. Flores falsely stated that they had seen C.D. on April 16, 2017. In truth, none of the defendants had seen C.D. in months; Paulo and Flores further knew that C.D. had died. Defendants Paulo, Flores, and R.K. Flores did not admit their wrongdoing until a week later, when the Fulton Police Department discovered C.D.’s body.
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 was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Cindi Woolery and Gregg Coonrod of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and 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 investigation and prosecution of this matter.