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DIA Investigator Receives Victim Service Award

victim service award recipient, DIA Investigator Kyle Paxton is pictured with First Assistant Linn County Attorney Nick Maybanks

DES MOINES – Kyle Paxton, a Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) investigator with the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals (DIA), received the 2016 Law Enforcement Victim Service Award at a presentation in Marion, Iowa, on Sunday, April 10, 2016. The award was presented to Paxton by the United States Attorneys’ Offices for the Northern and Southern Districts of Iowa for his work involving a case of abuse in an elder group home. Nick Maybanks, First Assistant Linn County Attorney, nominated Paxton for the award, which recognizes a law enforcement professional who has demonstrated outstanding achievement in support of victims.

In August 2014, Paxton initiated an investigation into a claim that the owners of Park Setting, an elder group home (EGH) in Marion, were locking residents, many of whom suffered from Alzheimer’s or dementia, into their rooms. “Over the course of the next seven months, Paxton worked tirelessly and relentlessly investigating what had transpired at Park Setting from the formation of the EGH until it was closed by the State of Iowa,” Maybanks wrote in the nomination form. 

As a result of his thorough investigation, it was determined that the owners of Park Setting, Donald and Peggy Berns, began locking tenants into their rooms as early as 6 p.m. and ordered staff to not let them out until 8 a.m. the following morning. During interviews with employees, it was revealed that tenants would be found in the morning soaked in their own urine. 

The Berns used a variety of techniques to monitor their tenants and restrict their movement, including installing baby monitors in the rooms, locking doors, and eventually constructing barricades to prevent tenants from leaving their rooms. Paxton’s investigation also revealed that the Berns had begun experimenting with some of the tenants’ medications, and were “illicitly providing drugs to residents who did not have a prescription in order to sedate them overnight,” the county attorney explained. 

“Though his soft and sensitive investigative style, Paxton was able to form strong bonds to all of the witnesses in this case, which, in turn, gave those witnesses the confidence and self-assurance to speak up and tell the awful truth about what was going on at Park Setting,” Maybanks continued. “They trust him, they work with him and I have seen more than one witness embrace him at the end of a meeting.”

DIA Director Rod Roberts said it was an honor for Kyle Paxton to be selected as the recipient of the Victim Service Award. “Kyle exemplifies the type of individual employed in the Department’s MFCU – a hardworking professional who is dedicated to protecting the state’s elderly and vulnerable citizens,” he added.

On June 7, 2016, the co-defendants were convicted on charges of neglect of a dependent person and conspiracy to commit a forcible felony and sentenced to 10 years in prison. “Not only did Kyle’s extraordinary work bring the Berns to justice, but the ultimate outcome of his investigation provided a sense of closure for the tenants and their family members,” the director said.

In addition to investigating allegations of fraud committed by Medicaid providers, DIA’s MFCU investigates alleged abuse and neglect of residents in long-term care facilities that receive Medicaid reimbursements. MFCU also looks into allegations that residents have been defrauded of personal funds or possessions.