An aged care business operated by two former bankrupt brothers convicted of appalling animal cruelty has failed to return deposits to the families of former residents, raising serious concerns about the firms’s future.
Chronos Care, which owns aged care homes in Alphington and Mount Eliza, was issued with a non-compliance notice by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission last month, following several complaints from concerned families.
Brothers Chris (front) and Gerry Apostolatos were found guilty of animal cruelty in 2015.Credit:Jason South
Last week, Chronos Care was also served with a statutory demand to return a deposit of $500,000 which should have been repaid within 14 days of when probate was finalised in April.
Stuart Reynolds, whose mother-in-law passed away at the Mount Eliza facility in July 2020, said he was forced to issue the demand because of repeated obfuscation by Chronos Care management and weak enforcement action by the regulator.
A failure to comply with the order within 21 days could see Chronos Care placed into administration.
“Chronos Care’s management have blatantly ignored their responsibilities in respect of the timely return of our refundable accommodation deposit. They have been contacted by our agents on numerous occasions seeking an explanation for the delay. Their responses have ranged from spurious excuses to outright lies,” Mr Reynolds said.
He also took aim at the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission over what he claimed was a reluctance to intervene and a lack of transparency.
“We have become aware of other parties similarly affected by Chronos Care’s disgraceful disregard of their financial obligations and are left to wonder why the commission allows this company to continue to accept government subsidies whilst plainly in breach of the Aged Care Act,” Mr Reynolds said.
Another family, whose mother died in Chronos Care’s Alphington facility in February 2021, is still trying to recoup a debt of $225,000 that should also have been refunded in April.
The late woman’s son, who asked not to be identified, said he was also considering legal action after months of delays by Chronos Care management.
He said he had been repeatedly told by the company that it was unable to refund the bond because it was in the process of refinancing and had been badly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I can very well understand the situation and sympathise, but it is still a statutory requirement for all aged care providers to return the refundable accommodation deposit within 14 days. Their inability to do so, indicates at best, non-compliance and clearly some degree of lack of financial management and foresight,” the man said.
Probity concerns about Chronos Care were first raised by The Age in February, when it was revealed the company was founded by Gerry and Chris Apostolatos in 2014 – when both men were bankrupt.
Chris Apostolatos was declared bankrupt in November 2012 with debts of more than $2.46 million and just $600 in the bank. Gerry Apostolatos owed $2.55 million to creditors when he was declared bankrupt in August 2013.
The pair were also facing serious animal cruelty charges over the mistreatment of more than a million chickens and eventually pleaded guilty in March 2015 – about five months after they purchased the Mount Eliza aged care home known as Ranelagh.
They were eventually fined and banned from the poultry industry for a combined total of 17 years.
The brothers used aliases, dummy directors and a family trust to conceal their roles with Chronos Care, while also funnelling funds from the business to pay for their mortgages, holidays and luxury cars.
Chronos Care, which did not respond to questions from The Age, now faces further scrutiny from the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, which served a non-compliance notice on June 15 over the business’ failure to comply with prudential requirements.
Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner Janet Anderson said Chronos Care is expected to “make improvements in all areas of non-compliance and ensure it is working to return to full compliance as soon as possible”.
“The Commission will continue to closely monitor the provider and should we have further concerns, may consider further regulatory action such as applying sanctions, issuing a notice requiring agreement to certain actions or revoking approved provider status,” Ms Anderson said.
In March, the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety delivered a scathing assessment of the nation’s aged care sector, in particular its weak regulation and ineffective governance.
The report contained 148 recommendations, including the introduction of an independent inspector-general to monitor and investigate governance, higher prudential standards and greater oversight of those holding management or director roles.
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