Staten Island Advance, N.Y.
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Wrapped in the grief of losing her 70-year-old father, Anthony Catapano, to the coronavirus (COVID-19), Tara Catapano, 37, received an unthinkable shock in the mail — her father’s credit card statement that spanned his time in the hospital.
“Normally, I don’t really pay too much attention (to the statements),” Tara, an Eltingville resident, said. “Like, you know, I just kind of open them up and pay them.”
But something was off.
Her father, who was admitted into Staten Island University Hospital in Ocean Breeze on April 4 for his coronavirus symptoms and unfortunately later died on April 12 — Easter morning — had charges of about 60 dollars, for gas and other small purchases, on his American Express card from April 9, she said.
“I called the credit card company like an absolute lunatic,” she said, and the charges were removed; however, she then turned her attention to how such charges could ever be made since Anthony was on a ventilator during his stay.
Tara said her father’s credit cards were back in his wallet when she received his belongings about two days after his death.
Since visitors are not currently permitted in the hospital, Tara said the charges were “obviously” from an employee. “This means an employee went in his wallet, stole his credit card, used it and then returned it.”
“That is taking complete advantage of these poor, vulnerable patients,” she said.
After she said initial efforts to have an investigation launched were unsuccessful, Tara was able to file a police report, and Danielle Conti, 43, of Grace Drive in Old Bridge, N.J., was arrested and charged by police Thursday morning.
Conti faces charges including grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property and petit larceny, according to a spokesman for the NYPD’s Deputy Commissioner of Public Information.
Conti was employed as a nurse for SIUH when she removed a patient’s credit card while he was being treated and used that card to make purchases without permission, police allege.
“Danielle Conti has been temporarily suspended and faces termination in response to the felony charges,” according to a statement from SIUH. “We are working closely with the law enforcement authorities and the hospital is conducting its own investigation. Ms. Conti has been an employee since 2007.”
While partially relieved that some resolution has happened thus far, Tara said the situation has “been an absolute nightmare.”
“It was hard enough losing my dad in the way that I lost him,” Tara said, overwhelmed with emotion. “I thought he was going to come home. I told him he was going to come home. He kept asking to come home, and to have to go through this on top of it just made it so much worse.”
Tara said her father Anthony was “an amazing person” who “was there for everybody.” After her mother died six years ago, she said her father began living with her, which “made us closer.”
“He was a huge, huge part of my life. And it’s just very, very devastating.”
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