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Attorney General goes after former nursing home owner

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LINCOLN — The Nebraska Attorney General’s Office is accusing a New York couple of carrying out a $59.6 million Medicaid fraud involving the ownership of a chain of nursing homes from 2016-2018 including facilities in Wausa and Hartington.

In the complaint filed in Lancaster County District Court, Joseph Schwartz, Rosie Schwartz and Skyline Healthcare LLC are accused of directing and controlling the major operations of 22 Nebraska nursing homes under the name Cottonwood Healthcare. The attorney general’s office alleges the couple made decisions that harmed the nursing homes for their own financial benefit.

The nursing homes operated under the name Golden Living Center in both Hartington and Wausa. In March 2018, the facilities were put in receivership after the business failed to make payroll. The Wausa facility was later forced to close.

According to a Cedar County News story at that time, at least a dozen Hartington area residents had indicated payroll checks were not able to be cashed. Some Hartington businesses indicated they also had trouble cashing checks from the facility.

The receivership was determined necessary by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services to protect the health and welfare of the facility’s residents.

At the time, the Schwartzes operated more than 100 nursing home facilities in Nebraska and a half dozen in other states.

According to the lawsuit, local facilities had little control over the financial operations with no operating budget or monthly financial reports tracking expenses.

Assistant Nebraska Attorney General Vicki Adams said Skyline determined which bills got paid. Often vendors that were owned by Joseph Schwartz or his business associates were paid while others weren’t.