State health officials seek to revoke home's license Presence of con artist at Shirley Manor cited

December 18, 1997|By Michael James | Michael James,SUN STAFF

Saying they are worried about an infamous con woman's involvement in the home, state health officials moved yesterday to revoke the permit of a controversial assisted-living center in Northwest Baltimore.

The Shirley Manor home has attracted a swarm of federal and state investigators since it was learned earlier this year that Deborah S. Kolodner, a convicted fraud artist with a taste for expensive cars and jewelry, was working there.

Maryland's chief health official sent a letter to the home yesterday advising that he is seeking to revoke its operating permit based on several concerns, the most notable of which was Kolodner's presence there.

The administrator of the home, Rufus Smith, 28, is "unnecessarily exposing the residents of Shirley Manor to the possibility of exploitation in terms of both their health and their finances" by allowing Kolodner an active role there, wrote Martin P. Wasserman, Maryland secretary of health and mental hygiene.

Federal prosecutors, who saw Kolodner convicted last month in an elaborate $3 million insurance swindle she ran out of a downtown physical therapy clinic, have said in court papers that they believe Kolodner is secretly running the home. Smith, her close friend, who holds the home's permit, is fronting for her, prosecutors claimed.

Smith couldn't be reached last night.

Reached at the facility, Kolodner, 42, said yesterday that she is "not that involved with Shirley Manor anymore" and is turning her attention to a real estate business she recently began.

Her attorney, William B. Purpura, said the facility -- home to four elderly or disabled people -- will remain open pending a meeting between Smith and state health officials.

The purpose of the meeting is "to resolve the problems" raised in the state investigation, Purpura said. He called the claim that Kolodner is running the facility "ridiculous."

"There's no question that Rufus Smith is the administrator. Her role at best was as an aide," Purpura said. Kolodner has helped plan residents' meals and schedule their doctor's appointments, duties she has reduced in light of "recent publicity" about Shirley Manor, he said.

Kolodner's convictions -- in 1994 for practicing medicine without a license and last month for mail fraud and tax evasion -- were the subject of a recent article in The Sun, which described her expensive lifestyle. She has purchased a Bentley and a Mercedes-Benz in the name of Shirley Manor and is often seen driving the Bentley.

Kolodner faces two years to 33 months in prison for the mail fraud and tax evasion convictions when she is sentenced Feb. 27 in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

As the permit holder for Shirley Manor, Smith may ask for an administrative hearing to argue his case within 30 days, said Carol Benner, director of licensing and certification for the state health department.

Assisted-living facilities provide care and a homelike environment for people who, because of age or physical disability, require help in daily living. Health officials said they have "serious concerns" about Kolodner's having regular contact "with frail elderly residents."

In addition to concern over Kolodner's criminal past, health officials noted several other problems at the center in the 2400 block of Shirley Ave. One of the most serious was that Smith had "administered injections of insulin to a resident for a period of 11 days" even though he was not licensed to do so, Wasserman wrote in the letter.

Also, in November, health officials saw Kolodner administering medications to four residents "in blatant disregard of the clear instructions" by state officials prohibiting her from doing so, the letter noted.

Pub Date: 12/18/97

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