Reported theft leads to state investigation

Published 7:08 am Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A reported theft last summer from an Austin assisted-living facility prompted a change to policy and a state investigation, though no formal orders were issued.

The incident in question occurred at Whispering Pines, located at 1916 Fourth St. SE, in August. A personal-care attendant admitted she was high on drugs when she took $1,016 from a locked box that held residents’ money, according to a report issued in March by the Minnesota Department of Health’s Office of Health Facilities Complaints.

The woman was interviewed for the report in private and her name was not used.

The employee initially told authorities that she hadn’t taken the money. However, a day later, she was pulled over by Austin police and taken to the hospital for an apparent medical issue. While obtaining insurance information from the woman, an officer noticed she had a large amount of cash, the report states. After the officer heard of the incident at Whispering Pines, he questioned the employee further, and she admitted to taking the money.

The woman, who had a previous conviction for felony prescription fraud, also said she had taken a month’s supply of Ambien and a 14-day supply of Xanax within three days of the theft and didn’t recall speaking to the deputy or being pulled over or taken to the hospital.

At the time of the theft, the woman was appealing a decision that prohibited her from working directly with people receiving services from state-licensed health and human services programs. She has been fired from Whispering Pines, the report states, and criminal charges have been filed.

Since the incident, the facility has mandated that at least two employees be present when accessing the locked funds box. Because of this policy change, and because the theft was reported properly, the state office issued no orders.