When Floridas Statewide Grand Jury charged Arturo Godinez with taking part in a conspiracy that sold counterfeit and diluted drugs to unsuspecting cancer patients, state health regulators say they had no authority to strip him of ownership of some of South Floridas largest assisted-living facilities.
Conditions at Godinezs Grand Court ALFs, though, offered regulators plenty of ammunition:
In the eight years since Godinezs indictment, one elderly man plunged to his death from the balcony of a third-floor Alzheimers wing, gushing blood onto the pavement before a caregiver heard his cries for help. A woman, her mind ravaged by dementia, drank from a bottle of Pine Sol and died 10 days later. Yet another woman wandered from her ALF and was found two days later lying near railroad tracks starving, dehydrated and comatose, her body riddled with painful red ant bites, sending her into shock. She now is bedridden in a nursing home.
Even when a new state law was passed a year ago forcing anyone with pending criminal charges to lose their license until the case is resolved, the state did nothing allowing the 52-year-old operator to stay in business.
Not until The Miami Herald inquired into Godinezs standing did the Agency for Health Care Administration take action two weeks ago, asking a judge to strip Godinezs licenses.
In two complaints, healthcare administrators accused Godinez of lying under oath in relicensing forms, of failing to submit criminal history records, and failing to pay $7,400 in fines.
The agencys action could well prove academic. Awaiting trial for more than eight years on a racketeering indictment, Godinez, free on $600,000 bond, could soon see his fate determined. He is set to stand trial on Oct. 10.
Anybody who would move or sell ineffective medications to someone in a time of desperation or need, it seems to me they are indifferent to humanity, said Florida Statewide Prosecutor Nick Cox, whose office is trying Godinez next month.
Godinezs defense attorney, Marcos Beaton, said his client expects to be vindicated in court.
Mr. Godinez entered a plea of not guilty over eight years ago and he has insisted on clearing his name through a trial ever since, Beaton said.
We look forward to finally moving past what has until now been only an ugly accusation, and getting into what really matters a trial based on the facts and the law.
For now, Godinez is giving up his operational duties and transferring stock ownership in light of AHCAs recent complaint. He will not be the owner anymore, said Julie Gallagher, a former AHCA general counsel who represents Godinezs ALFs
Godinezs facilities were well known to state regulators: Seventeen times since 2004, the Agency for Health Care Administration has fined Godinez ALFs for violations of state law.
Since 2006, three facilities linked to Godinez in Miami-Dade and Broward counties have racked up 180 violations sweeping deficiencies that increased year after year.
In 2007, healthcare inspectors threatened to revoke Grand Court Village Is license after they watched a man with a swallowing disorder suffer a severe choking episode because his caregiver failed to thicken his punch, soup and coffee, as a doctor ordered. The man had choked before.