GREAT FALLS (AP)
A Washington state man, who admitted diverting Medicaid money intended for the care of patients at a Big Sandy nursing home later shut down by the state, was sentenced to four years in prison and ordered to pay $185,600 in restitution. Jesse Marcel III, 39, was sentenced Thursday by U.S. District Judge Sam Haddon, who called Marcel’s conduct “callous,” “indifferent to the extreme,” and a “deliberate scheme that caused some of Montana’s most vulnerable citizens undue suffering and harmed the entire Big Sandy community.” The depleted funds led to a health care crisis, which led the state to shut down Prairie Vista Manor in 2001, forcing its two dozen residents to be moved. Northwest Senior Care, which Marcel co-owned, leased the nursing home in 1999. Prosecutors said that in late 1999, Marcel assumed control of the financial operations and began diverting large sums of revenue each month, forcing the facility to trim expenses and essential services. “The money was available to do it, and by this record, it was taken away,” Haddon said. Prosecutors said nursing home staff began rationing food and linens and bills went unpaid. Marcel, a Helena native who now lives in Spokane, Wash., admitted filing false Medicaid claims, apologized for not traveling to Big Sandy regularly and acknowledged his inexperience in the field of long-term care. However, Marcel apologized only for “his part” in the nursing home’s demise and shifted partial blame to the former administrator, Charlie Sipler. “My greatest mistake was to not put someone in the position that could’ve made it work,” Marcel said Thursday. Sipler was convicted of felony theft for taking $21,000 from residents’ trust accounts to operate the facility, but Sipler said Marcel instructed him to do so, saying he would reimburse the accounts later. Sipler was given a probationary sentence. Haddon dismissed Marcel’s arguments that he did not act alone. “Frankly, I’m not impressed that you were distanced from this place,” Haddon said. “I absolutely cannot accept that you laid (responsibility) off on staff in your absence.” Family and friends submitted letters on Marcel’s behalf, asking for leniency on the father of two small children. The defense sought less than two-and-a-half years in prison out of the maximum of five.