Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist has announced the arrests of three South Florida residents and charges against a fourth for patient neglect at the Colonnade Regional Medical Center in Lauderdale Lakes.

The Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit began investigating Colonnade based on complaints and information provided by the Department of Children and Families' Adult Protective Services Unit, as well as local media reports. The investigation revealed that facility residents did not receive the medications prescribed by their physicians, did not receive proper nutrition for their special conditions, did not have access to adequate and informed staff, and endured poor sanitary conditions. In one case, a resident with a history of severe mental illness was found in his wheelchair at a busy intersection outside of the facility.

"Those responsible for this neglect obviously do not understand the meaning of the word 'caregiver,'" said Crist. "It is outrageous that some of Florida's most needy citizens have been put in such danger. We will continue to track down and hold accountable those who would take advantage of the elderly and disabled."

The residents of Colonnade were forced to live in substandard conditions despite repeated warnings that the owner must take corrective action. In addition, the facility failed to pay its own staff consistently and many employees went for months without receiving any pay at all. During the last year, then-owner Gary Lampert received more than $3.5 million in Medicaid payments.

Arrested on Tuesday were Sharon Brown, 33, of Lake Worth, the former Director of Nursing; and Sandra Rothstein Frank, 49, of Coral Springs, Lampert's former girlfriend who was employed as the facility's dietician and as a corporate officer. Each was charged with 10 counts of patient neglect. In addition, Regine Roy, 27, of Miramar, was arrested and charged with one count of patient neglect. Lampert, 53, of Miami Beach, the former facility owner and administrator of Colonnade, remains at large. Patient neglect is a third-degree felony and each count carries a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Colonnade nursing home has been in receivership since July 2003, preventing Lampert from further involvement in patient care.