Action Comes as Division Focuses on How Professional Boards Address Allegations of Sexual Misconduct by Licensees
July 7, 2020
NEWARK – Continuing its commitment to protecting the elderly from abuse at the hands of their caretakers, and addressing sexual misconduct and abuse by licensed professionals, the Division of Consumer Affairs (“the Division”) today announced the temporary suspension of a certified homemaker-home health aide (“CHHA”) charged with aggravated criminal sexual contact against an 84-year-old patient at an Ocean County long-term care facility where the CHHA worked.
Michael A. Edwards, a.k.a. Michael A. Donaldson, 32, of Manchester, was arrested on May 21 after his employer, Sunrise Senior Living facility in Jackson, told police that another employee caught Edwards inappropriately touching an elderly woman in her room at the facility. His employment at the facility has been terminated.
Edwards is one of eight CHHAs sanctioned by the State Board of Nursing (“the Board”) this year following arrests for crimes allegedly committed on or off the job. In a Consent Order filed by the Board on June 22, Edwards agreed to the temporary suspension pending the outcome of his criminal case.
His suspension comes as the Division, under the direction of Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal, undertakes a sweeping review of how its 51 professional boards — which oversee approximately 720,000 active licensed professionals, from accountants and doctors to plumbers and veterinarians — address allegations involving the sexual misconduct and abuse of licensees and applicants.
The review, which is currently underway, will include evaluations of whether boards should ask additional questions on license applications, how boards approach investigations and discipline, and how boards engage with complainants alleging sexual misconduct and abuse by a licensee or applicant.
“It’s an egregious abuse of trust when any licensee sexually preys on a patient or client, but it is especially heinous when the victim is an elderly individual under their care,” said Attorney General Grewal. “The actions announced today underscore both the need for our professional boards to remain vigilant in protecting vulnerable patients, as well as the importance of the review they are presently undertaking to better protect victims and hold licensees accountable for their actions.”
“We take all allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse by licensees seriously, especially when they involve patients or clients in positions of vulnerability,” said Paul R. Rodríguez, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “It is to protect victims in cases like these that we are committed to undertaking this review of how professional and occupational licensing boards handle allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse.”
Since January, the Board has also filed Orders against the following CHHAs charged with crimes:
- Yolanda A. Penalo De Gonzalez, 40, of Hackensack. De Gonzalez’s certification was temporarily suspended on June 29 pending the outcome of criminal charges filed against her in connection with an alleged knife attack on her husband during a domestic dispute on March 14, 2020. De Gonzalez is charged with aggravated assault, terroristic threats, and domestic violence. The incident was unrelated to her employment.
- Josefina Milagros Brito De Fernandez, 49, of Camden. De Fernandez’s certification was temporarily suspended on June 15 pending the outcome of criminal endangerment charges stemming from her care of an 80-year-old woman during the COVID-19 public health crisis, which the Office of the Attorney General announced on May 15. De Fernandez allegedly defied health officials’ orders to self-isolate over fears she may have contracted the coronavirus, and instead continued caring for her elderly charge without wearing a face mask or other personal protective equipment. The woman and four other people living in the household later contracted COVID-19. The elderly woman was subsequently hospitalized and died.
- Emma Llanes, 57, of North Bergen. Llanes’ certification was permanently revoked on May 21 after she pled guilty to endangering another person in connection with her mistreatment of a 90-year-old bedridden patient she cared for in the woman’s Clifton home. Llanes was arrested in May 2019 as a result of incriminating video showing her slapping the elderly woman’s legs, grabbing her by the neck and shoving her head forward, and otherwise mistreating her. The footage was captured by a hidden camera the victim’s family borrowed from Division’s Safe Care Cam program.
- Myrlande Dornelus, 41, of Elizabeth. Dornelus’ certification was temporarily suspended on May 21 pending the outcome of murder and related weapons charges in connection with an alleged incident involving an elderly patient. Dornelus is accused of fatally stabbing Anna Pollard, a 62-year old woman she was caring for in the woman’s Elizabeth home on April 13, 2020.
- Oleg Protas, 53, of Marlton. Protas’ certification was permanently revoked on February 13, after he pled guilty to criminal sexual contact in connection with a 2017 incident involving a female acquaintance. Protas’ certification had been temporarily suspended by the Board pending the outcome of the criminal charges against him. The incident was unrelated to his employment.
- Adeola S. Pade, 53, of Plainsboro. Pade’s certification was temporarily suspended on February 13 pending the outcome of criminal charges stemming from a hit and run accident that killed a pedestrian in East Windsor in December 2019. Pade was charged with knowingly leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in death, and other related offenses. The incident was unrelated to her employment.
- Elizabeth H. Dungee, 33, of Roselle. Dungee’s certification was temporarily suspended on January 29 pending the outcome of criminal charges in connection with the theft of a patient’s credit card. Dungee was working at Brightview Senior Living in Warren in October 2019 when she allegedly stole a credit card from a resident and used it to make $240 worth of fraudulent charges. Warren Township police arrested Dungee on December 4, 2019 and charged her with credit card fraud and credit card theft in connection with the alleged incident.
Investigators with the Enforcement Bureau within the Division of Consumer Affairs conducted investigations in these cases.
Deputy Attorney General Shirley Dickstein of the Consumer Affairs Counseling Section of the Division of Law is representing the State in these matters.
For more information about the Division’s Safe Care Cam, or to learn how to apply for a camera, visit the Consumer Affairs website at https://www.njconsumeraffairs.gov/SCC.
Patients who believe that they have been treated by a licensed health care professional in an inappropriate manner can file an online complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 973-504-6200 to request a complaint form.