Some crimes stand out even in the cold “post-Christian” age in which we find ourselves today. Any offenses that involve children still matter, thankfully, as do any crimes committed against someone who suffers from MRDD or is otherwise disabled. Those amongst us who can not take care of themselves properly are put under the care of those who can tend to them in a way that brings dignity and as much enjoyment and freedom as each case can accept. This is true of no group of people more so than the elderly or those recovering from trauma or medical procedures. In many instances, horrific illnesses, terrifying surgeries, and even Alzheimer’s disease can befall senior citizens. Those who are entrusted with their treatment are some of the most valued people, if not in pay, in gratitude.
The owner of Benchmark Healthcare, Johnnie Mac Sells, is someone who seems to have not properly cherished that trust very much. The disgraced man pleaded guilty to two counts of healthcare fraud in U.S. District Court this past Wednesday. According to the Free Beacon, he spent over “$600,000 in Medicaid funds on strippers, gambling, and pet care.” To put that into perspective, the average worker currently earns about $44.6K per year. Since the high-end of any average skews it upward, let us say a more accurate number is $38K. This means that he was living far, far better than almost everyone in the entire country!
Sixty residents were under his care at Benchmark (note: many other unaffiliated care homes share this name) and they all had to be moved after the shady center was shut down in September of 2016, according to reports. What is being called “the final straw” for inspectors was seen four of the patients there who were struggling with “congestive heart failure, epilepsy and schizophrenia” were getting NO medication. This is because their pharmacy bills were not being paid. These are terrible illnesses, but they are ones that can often be managed with medication, making this an even more egregious act of greed.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote in a recent article that “Bills went unpaid. The phones were shut off. Paychecks bounced. Trash piled up. Flies swarmed. And food deliveries stopped. A patient advocate described the situation as ‘a disaster.” So often we look at evil dictators in other countries and wonder how they can steal from and starve their own people, but in this case, that evil leader was one of our own. This is the way that this “man” left those who worked to raise the children of this generation, who fought in our wars, and who now need a bit of repayment for all of their effort in life.
The U.S. District Court is said to have found that the thievery of Sell’s started way back in 2013. (That would be $667K blown in less than four years for those keeping math). He was pilfering Medicaid payments meant for the care of those there. Much to the happiness of the local dancer’s of St. Louis, he spent $185,000 at “adult entertainment clubs.” One can all but picture the “big spender” living the rich life and eating fine foods as he dined with the state’s most beautiful women while the food trucks stopped coming for his patients who were famished.
Pet care is said to have eaten up $15,000, a number that seems so high for such services that the mind struggles to imagine what those procedures could have been. Another $4,500 was given to casinos where more of the highlife was lived at the elderly’s expense…literally. His country club saw $12,000, which was couch change compared to the $439,000 that he wired before giving a relative $153,000, which we can guess may have been “hush” or “thank’s for helping” money. There is no proof of the latter being true at this time, however.
This is more than a wake-up story for those who have loved ones in nursing care facilities. While this is a tale that will certainly work to ensure a second look for everyone who hears it, it is much deeper in that it shows what few amounts of oversights are on the money coming from the taxpayers. Libertarians want such matters handled by the state, but even that useful change would not have prevented this from happening. This problem here would mean a whole new layer of oversight (from the state or the feds) to prevent it. Doing this would mean less money trickling down to granny when she needs it the most. For that matter, due to car crashes, wars, and other accidents of daily life, nursing care centers often house those who face a full recovery.
Unless, of course, someone like Sells is there in charge. In that case, such a person could be left to languish and never see the health that should otherwise have been afforded them. This is a big problem that has only an expensive solution; more bureaucracy and red tape. That said, it would be nice if the federal government did not just hand out money as if it were free. Only the most cold among us would deny care to the elderly or sick. However, we have every right in the world to want that money to be well spent and used with some sense of oversight given to its distribution.
It does not appear that anyone died from Sells actions, though it can be imagined that the families who may have lost loved ones in Benchmark since 2013 are certainly looking into the notion. With Sells likely not seeing any strip clubs again for quite some time, the families may never get a financial settlement for it, if so. Still, even if such is the case, it is worth noting that one need not look to dictators and tyrants to find oppression, sometimes it is right under our noses.