Aventura - Sunny Isles

Where did nursing home patient’s $2 million go? Son says he knows — and sues

Regents Park at Aventura is located at 18905 NE 25th Ave. A former client is suing the home, claiming employees stole more than $2 million.
Regents Park at Aventura is located at 18905 NE 25th Ave. A former client is suing the home, claiming employees stole more than $2 million. cteproff@miamiherald.com

Over a span of more than five years, staff members of a Northeast Miami-Dade nursing home managed to bilk a former client out of more than $2 million, an attorney representing the man’s son claimed in a lawsuit filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court.

Zachary Ziskin, on behalf of his father, Avigdor Ziskin, alleges that Regents Park at Aventura, 18905 NE 25th Ave., did not properly screen its employees, leading to the theft.

Ziskin’s team of attorneys — Bruce Katzen, Marko Cerenko and James Diamond — detailed Ziskin’s time at the home and how he lost his fortune in a 19-page lawsuit filed June 21 naming only the home.

“Oftentimes, these individuals would write out checks to themselves, or to other people from Victor’s checking accounts and would force Victor to place his signature on the checks, or they would simply forge Victor’s signature completely,” the attorneys wrote in the suit.

Katzen said last week that it was up to the home to screen its employees and ensure its clients were safe. It was unclear whether anyone had been charged criminally. Miami-Dade police said they were not able to find a case involving a financial crime against Ziskin.

“I do think you need to hold nursing homes and ALFs accountable because they have patients under their care,” he said. “I don’t think any child with parents in a nursing home would anticipate being financially abused in a nursing home.”

Allison S. Bernstein, an attorney representing the home — which according to its website is “a family-owned and independently operated skilled nursing and rehabilitation center” — said in a statement: “We disagree with the allegations and will take all appropriate legal action to defend our client.”

Katzen, however, said the home “should be responsible for what happened to Victor.”

“The fraud committed upon Victor while Victor was a resident at the Nursing Home was a direct and proximate result of Regents' utter failure to create a secure environment for its residents , which it had a duty to do,” the attorneys wrote in the suit.

Ziskin, 79, lived at Regents Park from 2009 to 2015. According to the suit, he was transferred to the home for rehabilitation after being seriously injured in an accident. In 2009, Ziskin — who was a concert pianist — had a net worth of more than $3 million, the attorneys wrote in the lawsuit.

Soon after his admittance, Victor Ziskin became confined to bed. At the same time his companion of over 30 years was diagnosed with cancer, according to the suit.

“Victor’s decline was first precipitated by his injury and then the illness and subsequent death of his ‘life companion,’ ” his attorneys wrote in the suit. “Being bed bound, depressed and socially isolated perpetuated his emotional decline, increasing his vulnerability, increasing his loss of rationality and rational decision making.”

The suit claims Regents staff “collectively manipulated and/or coerced Victor into transferring approximately $2.5 million of his personal assets.”

In 2015, Zachary Ziskin became his father’s guardian after realizing “what happened to his father,” Katzen said.

“As soon as he became aware of the problem, he filed for guardianship,” Katzen said.

Katzen said the son reported the alleged abuse to the Department of Children and Families. DCF declined to comment, citing Florida law that “adult protective investigations are confidential.”

The Agency for Health Care Administration said “it is not aware of this incident.”