While the spotlight is quite rightly shining on Anderson Guest House owner Robert Dupont following the fire that killed 10 people in that facility, the simple fact is Dupont should have been removed from the group home business years before the fire.
More than an ample amount of evidence existed to remove him well before his 2003 federal fraud conviction.
In the summer of 2000, a little over a year after my departure from daily journalism and entrance into the world of public education, I started the original Turner Report, which I created on Tripod.
It lasted for about two years and never had much of a readership, but during the time it existed, it ran a few stories about the continuing problems faced by Robert Dupont. Unfortunately, most of the stories I wrote for that website no longer exist, but I did find this one, which probably ran sometime around April 2001:
A federal judge ruled last month that a lawsuit against Robert J. Dupont, Jr, owner of the Guest House of Joplin and others accused of defrauding Medicare will be delayed until after criminal charges against them are settled.
Senior U. S. District Judge Scott O. Wright issued the ruling March 22 to enable Dupont and other defendants to fully concentrate on preparing their defense for the criminal case.
The United States government opened a second front in its battle with the owner of the Guest House of Joplin Nov. 9, filing a lawsuit against Dupont Jr in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.
DuPont and a number of business associates are cited in the lawsuit. They were also indicted in June 2000 by a federal grand jury for Medicare fraud. Among those indicted and also listed as defendants in the lawsuit are DuPont's former Guest House partner, Karl Otis Householder of Milo, and DuPont's daughter, Kelley Liveoak. Dupont currently owns the Joplin Guest House, Anderson Guest House, Carl Junction Guest House and the St. Louis Guest House. Ms. Liveoak served as the administrator for those facilities.
In the first and second counts of the seven-count lawsuit, the government alleges that false or fraudulent claims for homebound health services were made for an individual who was not homebound.
The third count alleges that Dupont and Ms. Liveoak made false or fraudulent claims for personal care for people who were hospitalized at other facilities.The fourth count alleges Householder made false or fraudulent claims for personal care for people who were hospitalized in other facilities. Householder was claiming the people were at the Lamar Guest House, the Butler Guest House or were under the care of Regal Home Health or Sterling Home Health, two businesses co-owned by Householder.
Another count alleges common fraud. On each count, the government is asking for $10,000 in damages for each of dozens of cases and then asking that that amount be tripled.
The Guest House of Joplin, as reported exclusively in The Turner Report, has been denied license renewal by the Missouri Division of Aging because of a continued problem with contaminated drinking water.
According to Division of Aging documents, the drinking water was contaminated because the Guest House does not dispose of its sewage properly. Raw sewage backed up in the backyard, eventually contaminating the drinking water. The problem was first noticed in a May 31 state inspection. It had not been corrected when state inspectors returned Aug. 7 and Aug. 10.
A notice of non-compliance has been issued, as well as a notice of denial of license renewal "due to lack of correction of (violations of) Class I and Class II standards."
As The Turner Report noted recently, Dupont and Householder lost another battle in court when the U. S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit ruled in favor of the city of Springfield, which Dupont and Householder's company, Sandhill, Inc., claimed had violated the Fair Housing Act when it closed its Springfield Guest House due to zoning regulations.
Sandhill was also the owner of the Lamar Guest House, which was closed by the Missouri Division of Aging in 1997.
The federal indictment indicates Dupont, Householder and the others were involved in a conspiracy to send Sandhill patients to specific doctors. The doctors would then say that the patients needed home health services from Sterling Home Health Care, Inc., a Lamar company owned by Householder and Dupont, Home Health Care, Inc., and A to Z Billing Services, Inc., both of Joplin, and both owned by Dupont. Dupont had been co-owner of Sandhill from 1993 to 1996.
The problems of Sandhill, Inc., were spelled out in documents filed in U. S. Bankruptcy Court. The company bought property in Springfield and opened a residential care center but ran into a tidal wave of opposition from people who lived near the proposed center and from city officials.
The city of Springfield refused to issue necessary local licenses, company officials claimed in the Bankruptcy Court documents. They also claimed the Department of Housing and Urban Development had referred the matter to the U. S. Justice Department with a recommendation to bring discrimination charges against the city of Springfield. Householder and Dupont filed the discrimination suit against the city March 7, 1997, in U. S. District Court. Dupont said they were seeking more than $5 million in damages. The city had closed the Guest House in 1993 saying it did not have a city business license. Dupont said the closing was motivated by the presence of black residents at the Guest House.
In Bankruptcy Court documents, Sandhill officials said the city of Springfield closed the Springfield Guest House solely because "mentally handicapped people resided therein." Dupont told this reporter in a 1997 interview that many of the accusations made by officials of the Missouri Division of Aging against the Springfield facility were not accurate. He said accusations that people were administering insulin shots without training were incorrect. Another problem cited by the state was a lack of counseling for a patient with a history of cocaine abuse. Dupont said, "We were told by the Department of Probation and Parole to hold off on the counseling program, then we were cited by the Division of Aging for doing what we were told to do." The District Court did not agree that Sandhill had been the victim of discrimination and granted a summary judgment in favor of the city of Springfield.
As of the date that article was written, state officials had scores of reasons to justify the removal of Robert Dupont from any connection with any group home. Among them:
-He had been indicted in federal court for fraud.
-He had declared bankruptcy in the mid-90s. State regulations are clear- Those who operate group homes must be able to prove financial solvency. Otherwise, you risk the danger of ownership cutting corners in order to squeeze dollars out of the operation of these facilities.
-He had ignored serious problems with contaminated drinking water at the Joplin Guest House, problems that remained through multiple inspections.
-As noted earlier in this blog, he was connected with at least three facilities prior to 2001 that had been closed due to numerous violations, the Lamar Guest House, Butler Guest House, and Springfield Guest House, even though it appears he pulled one of his patented tricks at that time, and fooled meekly compliant state officials into believing that it was Householder who had been in charge of those operations, leaving him to extend his brand of care into another series of Guest Houses.
State officials clearly dropped the ball for more than a decade as far as Robert Dupont is concerned, something that was pointed out time and time again in the pages of the Carthage Press and Lamar Press in 1997, thanks to Cait Purinton's reporting, and again on the first Turner Report website during 2000 and 2001.
No one (with the exception of this blog) paid the slightest attention when Dupont filed for bankruptcy in 2004. At least so far I have been unable to locate any other references to it from any media.
When the fraud charges were initially filed against Dupont, Dupont's daughter, Householder, and others in 2000, the area media did absolutely no digging as I recall. The reporting came from press releases issued by the Department of Justice.
Sadly, it took the loss of 10 lives for the spotlight to finally focus on Robert Dupont.