FBI followed state nursing home owner

Saturday, December 29th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Oklahoma nursing home owner E.W. ``Dub'' Jiles was followed by FBI agents who secretly recorded his telephone conversations during an investigation of corruption within the state Department of Health, according to a published report.

The Sunday Oklahoman, in a copyright story, reported that tapes of Jiles' telephone conversations include him talking about ``warehousing'' and ``hiding'' patients.

Jiles, 66, a longtime figure in the state's nursing home industry, is not charged but is considered a target of the ongoing investigation. He denies wrongdoing.

Jiles' attorney, Carl Hughes, said the interim housing of residents ``is sometimes referred to in slang terms as 'warehousing' because it is a temporary location similar to a warehouse.

``No disrespect is meant at all. It is just a term,'' Hughes said.

He said ``hiding'' patients happens because ``problem owners'' of just-closed room-and-board facilities sometimes try to find removed residents ``that night'' and take them back.

The FBI also taped conversations in the federal case against former Deputy Health Commissioner Brent VanMeter and nursing home owner Jim Smart.

VanMeter and Smart were convicted of bribery last year after jurors heard their telephone conversations and saw photographs of a meeting. The FBI had wiretapped VanMeter's Health Department cell phones.

The FBI also wiretapped Jiles' phones and taped his conversations on Feb. 22, 2000, the day the Health Department started to close Evening Shade Residential Care in Vian. The home that day had 30 residents.

Jiles called Merlyn Mary Stelly, owner of Stelly's Care Home in Oklahoma City, and asked if she could hold some extra patients temporarily even though she was licensed for only 12 beds.

Jiles told her he could keep the Health Department from punishing her for having excess patients. He said he was having lunch with a friend from the Health Department about the patients and asked her not to say anything to anybody.

Stelly, 63, told federal agents she knew what was being proposed was not right, but that Jiles was a ``fast talker.'' She said Jiles did not send her the patients.

Closure of the nursing home was called off after state Sen. Larry Dickerson, D-Poteau, intervened.

FBI agents also have Jiles on tape talking to Phyllis Ann Murry, who later told investigators that she volunteered at his daughter's nursing home. Jiles talked to her of ``warehousing'' patients at Stelly's facility and ``hiding'' patients.''

``He likes to talk,'' she told agents.

Agents monitored Jiles because they suspect he used his influence with health officials to get patients from closed residential facilities. The patients would be sent to his daughter's nursing home, Oak Hill Living Center in Jones.

Agents suspect Jiles would try to keep patients who could become eligible for Medicare or Medicaid. Jiles allegedly sent ineligible patients to operators of residential care facilities in exchange for any of their residents who might qualify for nursing home care.

At issue in the investigation is whether patients were moved against their will, in violation of their civil rights. Some operators, including Stelly, have confirmed to the FBI that they made trades while others said they resisted Jiles' demands to exchange patients.

Hughes said state health officials asked Oak Hill Living Center ``on a couple of occasions'' to hold residents from closed room-and-board facilities in an unused wing.

``Oak Hill allowed the Health Department to use its wing and considered it a public service,'' Hughes said. He said the patients were a financial drain on the facility and were not profitable.

``There would have been no reason to use influence to get patients from closed homes, and he did not,'' Hughes said.

The attorney confirmed that Jiles talked to Stelly about space in her room-and-board around Feb. 22, 2000, but said the conversation ``was perfectly proper.''