Paralyzed from the neck down from a car accident seven years ago, 30-year-old Matt Oliveri was entitled to seven day a week/24 hours a day care by nurses working through Medicare.
The care was interrupted when several of the nurses were denied their payments for working. The victim’s father, and primary caregiver, Mike Oliveri, took time off from his plumbing business to find out what was going on.
How could this happen? A licensed Practical Nurse, already on probation out of Orleans County for Unemployment Insurance Fraud, was one of the independent nurses who found her way into Matt’s life.
Wanda J. Rust, age 31, of Cottage Street in the City of Rochester, worked as a private contractor, and was billing Medicaid for services that she never provided.
According to Mike Oliveri, Rust began working at Matt’s home on April 15th of this year and the excuses for taking time off, or not showing up for scheduled shifts began from the start. Although Rust was soon dropped from Matt’s daily care schedule, she obtained his Medicare prior approval number and began billing for hours worked, even for back in March of this year, before the Oliveris even knew the woman.
Mike Oliveri called Medicare inspectors after he was told scheduled hours had already been paid. Before The Center for Disability Rights (CDR) and Medicare caught on to Rust’s deception, the woman had already received in excess of $30,000 for medical services that she never provided.
Following the investigation by the Wayne County Sheriff’s office, Wayne County Department of Social Services and the New York State Office of The Medicaid Inspector General, Rust was arrested on Monday (9/19). She was charged with Welfare Fraud in the 3rd degree, Grand Larceny in the 3rd degree, Defrauding the Government and Endangering the Welfare of a Handicapped Person. Rust was arraigned in the Town of Ontario Court where she was charged with Endangering. There she was committed by Justice Reginald Higgins, to the Wayne County Jail in lieu of $2,000 cash/ $4,000 bond. She was also arraigned before Judge Art Williams of the Arcadia Town Court on the Felony Theft and Fraud charges and was committed to the Wayne County Jail in lieu of an additional $10,000 cash/$20,000 bond. The case will be presented to a Wayne County Grand Jury.
As for Matt, Mike said his son has adjusted to his life and has a great attitude. Talking can be a bit rough at times after numerous tubes were inserted early-on following the accident that took a toll on his vocal chords.
Matt is able to maintain his own schedule of nurses and aide workers, a balancing act that becomes even more difficult when someone does not show up for their “shift.” No one can leave until someone shows up,” said Matt. He lives alone in Ontario in a house he bought for himself three months before the accident that left him paralyzed.
With three of the four contusions on his spine healing, Matt is very optimistic that someday, especially with the advances in stem cell research, he will regain full use of his arms and legs. He attends physical therapy once a week and his father set up a small heated swimming pool in his garage that gives him a feeling of freedom from his chair and bed.
As for Rust, Matt has no good words for her. “She looked Investigator Alan Graham right in the face and said she worked every hour she billed. I have all the signed time sheets and keep all the records,” he insisted.