Former Pioneer Home administrator accused of stealing money meant for elderly resident fun

ldemer@adn.comAugust 2, 2013 

David Frain

ERIK HILL — Daily News archive 2004 Buy Photo

The former top administrator of the Anchorage Pioneer Home is accused of betraying the trust of the elderly residents in his care by pilfering from a special fund that was intended for lunches out and movies, bingo prizes and beading supplies, trips to the Alaska State Fair and holiday parties. He is also charged with using his state credit card for purchases, such as for gardening equipment, that never made it to the assisted living home.

He also demanded a key to the Pioneer Home pharmacy, and a bottle of an anti-anxiety drug, Xanax, showed up in his office, the charges against him say.

In all, David Frain, 57, stole more than $38,000 from the special fund, according to a sworn statement filed to support the criminal charges. He charged another $7,368.79 on the state credit card for items that were supposed to make it to the Pioneer Home but didn't, the statement said. The account was funded by donations from a variety of sources including families of residents and charities, according to the Pioneer Home.

Officials reported suspected embezzlement to Alaska State Troopers on May 24, 2010, and Frain lost his Pioneer Home job the next day as troopers obtained a warrant to search his office. But he wasn't charged until June, more than three years later, when Alaska State Troopers accused him of four felonies: first-degree theft, second-degree theft, misapplication of property and fourth-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance.

Now Frain is preparing to resolve the case through a plea deal, his lawyer, Paul Stockler, said Friday afternoon. Prosecutors have agreed to allow him to plead to a single theft count, avoid jail time, serve a short stint on probation, and pay the state back for what he took.

"I think he made some mistakes, but I don't think he let anybody down," Stockler said.

As to the drug charge, the attorney said it will be dropped. Frain didn't abuse prescription drugs and denies that he took the pills, Stockler said. Other people had access to his office.

Pioneer Home officials said Friday they are working to tighten controls. For instance, requests to use donor funds now must be made in writing and the home's accounting staff will track them. While two people needed to sign for checks before, Frain simply could have said he was going to buy some gift cards and needed a check.

"The accounting was not as tight as it should have been at that time," Sarana Schell, spokeswoman for the Alaska Pioneer Homes, said. Practices at the other five homes have since been examined, too, she said.

In addition, while Frain was able to demand a key to the pharmacy, now only pharmacists have keys and a new locking system was installed for the narcotics closet, Schell said. Frain got the key by claiming he wanted access to the pharmacy in an emergency, such as a flood.

The Anchorage Pioneer Home currently has 168 residents, all 65 or older, and about 200 staff members. Some residents have Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia. Some can no longer get around by themselves or are suffering from chronic health problems. But others are healthy and like the camaraderie of the home.

A hearing in Frain's case has been scheduled for Oct. 8. The state plans to use the time leading up to the hearing to determine the restitution amount, Stockler said.

The money from the donated funds account went for $500 gift cards, $7,000 in travel expenses for two state trips that he already had been reimbursed for, and purchases at Best Buy, including a washer and dryer for his home, state trooper Nathan Bucknall wrote in an affidavit filed in court.

Among the items charged were food including steak and powdered milk, a rototiller, a wheelbarrow and other gardening items, the affidavit said.

Frain began working for the state in 1993 as a chaplain at Alaska Psychiatric Institute. In 2003 he became administrator of the Anchorage Pioneer Home, an appointment that required the approval of the office of then-Gov. Frank Murkowski. By the time he was forced out in 2010, he was making just over $103,000 a year.

"He was apparently a person with some character flaws that became evident, but he was technically a competent administrator," said Ken Truitt, the newly installed director of Alaska Pioneer Homes.

After he lost his job with the Pioneer Home, Frain landed a job at the Anchorage Neighborhood Health Center but was let go after the criminal case was filed, Stockler said.

When troopers confronted him in November in his office at the Neighborhood Health Center, Frain started talking without being asked a question, Bucknall said in his sworn statement.

"He stated that none of us are perfect and that he has made a big mistake. He said that he wants to make this right," the trooper wrote. Frain told troopers he felt he had been serving penance the last 21/2 years and that between him and God, he had sinned.

"Frain said that he wants to move on and do all that he can to regain his reputation and his own honor when he looks in the mirror," the statement said. "This has put an unbelievable weight on him and his family for the past two and a half years, all of his doing. He said that he has no one to blame but himself."

In the spring of 2010, the supply technician for the Pioneer Home noticed that the landscaping around the home wasn't improving even though Frain was buying gardening equipment, the troopers statement said. Frain is a devout gardener and did some of the work at the Pioneer Home himself, officials said.

Workers investigated and found that Frain was writing checks from the donor fund to himself.

Then-Division Director David Cote told troopers that the Pioneer Home can give gift cards to recognize employees for good work. But the gift cards are for $10 or $15, not $500, and not from the donor funds, Cote told troopers.

Stockler said Frain maintains the gift cards were given out and the rewards were sanctioned.

But Pioneer Home officials surveyed 203 employees of the Anchorage home to see who had received gift cards from Frain. From the 196 employees who responded, officials determined that 10 gift cards totaling about $185 had been distributed since June 2005.

During the state's internal investigation, the home's assistant administrator found a safe in Frain's office. Inside was a white box with $64,242 and 14 gift cards, which appeared to each have $500 stored on them, according to the trooper affidavit. A note said: "Attention, these funds are the personal funds of David Frain and are not the property of the state of Alaska."

Angela Lindekugel, administrative operations manager for all the Pioneer Homes, told troopers that Frain said he kept personal money in the safe because he didn't trust banks.

Residents weren't deprived during the time Frain was there, officials said.

"We can confidently say that residents enjoyed many enriching activities during the time period, so it's not like they were stuck without fun," Schell wrote in an email.

Reach Lisa Demer at ldemer@adn.com or 257-4390.

 

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