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Former Princeton Care Center employees, residents say they're still owed money after nursing home's abrupt closure

Former NJ care center employees, residents say they're owed money
Former NJ care center employees, residents say they're owed money 03:53

PRINCETON, N.J. -- It's been two months since a Princeton nursing home abruptly closed with less than a day's notice, yet CBS New York investigative reporter Tim McNicholas found families are still searching for thousands of dollars deposited into their loved ones' accounts.

Those families aren't the only ones searching for their money. Nearly 70 employees are wondering if they'll ever be paid for their final three weeks of work.

We're uncovering a pattern of unpaid funds.

Susan Kalitan is trying to remember the good times, flipping through a scrapbook filled with photos of seniors whose days she helped plan as activity director at the Princeton Care Center.

"I adored every single one of them. It was my job to make them happy," she said. 

But happiness was in short supply the day 72 seniors had to leave as the nursing home shut down with less than a day's notice due to a financial emergency.

Their children say the abrupt closure not only angered them but traumatized their parents, some suffering from dementia and other health issues.

Sixty-nine employees, some of whom helped sort through that chaos, have now filed claims with the state because they still haven't been paid for their final three weeks.

"Thank God I am on unemployment," Kalitan said. "How could you not have money? Every single one of those people were paying to live there. I don't know how you could not have the money."

The paychecks aren't the only problem.

Many residents had hundreds or in some cases thousands of dollars in personal needs allowances in their accounts for haircuts, clothing or other needs. Some of the funds came from relatives; much of it came directly from resident's social security checks.

"That is now frozen somewhere, which we don't know exactly where it is," said Sorat Tungkasiri, whose mom lived at the center.

He says his mom's account had $4,700 in it.

"I've tried to call Ezra, I've tried to email him, and still no response," Tungkasiri said.

Ezra is Ezra Bogner -- the nursing home administrator who employees and resident's relatives alike now say they can't get ahold of.

We drove to his home to ask about the funds, but we weren't able to reach him either.

"Do you think you're ever gonna get that back?" McNicholas asked Tungkasiri.

"I hope so because we really need it in order to support my mother," Tungkasiri said.

"Did you have any idea there were financial problems going on there?" McNicholas asked.

"Not at all," Tungkasiri said.

But state records show the health department visited the nursing home in June and an employee "stated that sometimes there were only two aides to care for 60 residents."

Bogner told a state surveyor there had been "cash flow issues" with the facility since March.

"Why didn't the state come in with some finances, some emergency finances to make sure residents could stay in place while there was a plan that could make sure that the health and safety of the residents were first?" New Jersey State Sen. Andrew Zwicker said.

The health department says the nursing home told them a new owner would be taking over, but that deal fell through the day before the emergency shutdown.

Kalitan, flipping past pictures of Bogner, says both the state and Bogner should have done more to warn residents.

"He could have done this, I think, a long time ago," she said.

The state health department would not agree to an interview with us, but a spokesperson sent us the following statement:

"The evacuation was initiated and handled by the facility. The facility notified the department that it was invoking its emergency plan and evacuating residents. In the case of an activated emergency closure, the Department cannot force a facility to remain open, as that would be forcing residents to stay in an unsafe situation. The Department sent surveyors and mission critical staff to monitor the situation and remained onsite during the residents' transfers to their new, temporary homes until the last resident left the building to ensure their health and well-being.

"Please direct any specific questions about the evacuation to the landlord/owners.

"The Department's investigation into Princeton Care Center's compliance with the Department's long-term care facility rules is still open and, as such, the Department is unable to comment while its investigation is pending."

The nursing home told the state they're trying to return the funds, but the account is frozen in part because a medical supply company is suing over unpaid bills.

A lawyer for that company told McNicholas they want to return the funds, but the Princeton Care Center hasn't given them specifics about what money is owed to whom.

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