Owner of nursing home accused of stealing from 57 residents to pay debts

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Stealing and preying on the elderly-- that's what the owner of a Fresno nursing home is being accused of doing. Investigators said he stole thousands of dollars from more than 50 residents.

The staff at Sunnyside Convalescent Hospital are tasked with taking care of the vulnerable. But deputies said the man in charge -- 65-year-old Michael Fellen-- preyed upon those people.

"You really entrust these businesses to take care of you, not take advantage of you," said Tony Botti, PIO Fresno County Sheriff's Office.

Fellen was responsible for managing trust accounts of people at the nursing home.

When investigators ordered an audit they found he had moved money from residents' pensions and social security benefits to the hospital's business account.

"He told investigators that he was in extreme debt, he needed to come up with some way of paying off his bills. So this was one way he was going about it," said Botti.

This isn't the first time Fellen ran into money troubles. Back in 2008, his nursing staff went on strike after not getting paid. Fellen told Action News in an interview, he blamed the state budget stalemate.

"I've used my personal funds, I've even put my house up."

This time, investigators said he's stealing from others to solve his troubles. A total of 57 people were victimized-- six of whom have since died.

"They are in no position to really defend themselves or manage their finances, they are really relying on the owners to look after their best interest, and this just goes against everything they are put in place to do," said Botti.

Fellen also admitted to falsifying monthly statements so people could not detect the money was missing.

Deputies said if it wasn't for someone calling it in the thefts could have continued.

"The sad thing is these people don't have any other family members, any other people to look over them," said Botti.

We learned the money was being used to pay for vendors, payroll, and facility costs.

He was booked into the Fresno County Jail and his bond set at $25,000.
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