My name is Craig Sears. I'm a survivor of a traumatic brain injury. My journey has made me all too familiar with the difficulties faced by individuals and their families working through the arbitrary system of care.
It was July. It was a beautiful Connecticut summer afternoon and I was out riding my motorcycle. I had just turned 20, and had a lot going for me. I was making a very good life for myself. I had a great family and a good job in construction and as a part-time mechanic. I was making good money for a kid my age. I had a great girlfriend and lots of friends. I had two cars and lived in a nice condo right on the water. I was living the American Dream. I'll leave that up to you to fill it in because I had everything a man could have possibly wanted — and in a heartbeat it was all gone.
Suddenly, I came up over a hill, and there was a car going the wrong way. It was too late. I couldn't stop and we collided. I was thrown nearly 40 feet over on-coming traffic. I was not wearing a helmet and I landed head first into a curb, just missing a telephone pole. I have no memory of the next 6 months. That period of time is a Black Hole in my life. I was in and out of a coma, undergoing multiple surgeries. The doctors operated on my head, and did what they could to patch up my body. This was the beginning of my physical recovery.
Though my body was healing, a bigger problem went untreated and no one realized it. Insult was added to injury. This is where I fell through the cracks. Despite having my head in a cast, no one identified the true nature of my injury as being a Traumatic Brain injury. That oversight would cost me dearly in the years to come. I had no idea of the hell I was in for. Had I known what lay ahead, I would never have fought so damn hard to make it. I would have given up, lay down and died. My struggles were constant, and I had to relearn everything. How to walk, how to talk, how to eat, how to use the bathroom; How to care for myself, and then there was the incessant pain, the physical pain of my body overcoming weakness and injury. Worse yet, there was the anguish of not knowing who I was.
Things went from bad to worse. Soon, the treatment center I was in transferred me out to a local hospital and put me in a mental health ward. (I was told there were no other services offered for people with traumatic brain injury.) I spent the next 9 months locked in against my will, slowly regaining my memory. It was a locked ward and the doors only opened when someone came in or out. I started sneaking out when they would bring in breakfast, lunch or dinner trays. I would run to the back stairwell where the service elevators were, jump in go to the first floor and dart out the front or side door. I would get a couple hours of peace before I would get brought back by the police, because the hospital would always call them and tell them I had snick out again. I was angry and I wanted out. I would sit by the phone for hours trying to figure out how to make a call out. I finally figured it out and began calling out to anyone who would listen to me - Town officials, State Government anyone who could get me out. While I knew I didn't need to be there, I did know that I needed help in other areas. But the help I needed wasn't available. Keep in mind traumatic brain injury is not a mental illness.
Eventually, a sympathetic ear at the Governor's office helped arrange a meeting between my family, my doctors, and a state representative. I told them all, I wanted out and I needed out and it was clear to them that I was right. But where was I to go, I had only one real option and that was my family. Yet I didn't want to be a burden to my parents. I applied for Section 8 disability housing, and was put on a waiting list. I was turned down repeatedly. So in the meantime, my family helped me get into my own one room efficiency apartment. While a big step up from the psychiatric ward, this too, was far from ideal. I now found myself living alone, except for the roaches and rats, and vulnerable, in an area known for drug dealers and prostitutes. I wandered those mean streets, trying to regain some kind of memory. I would watch other people to see what they were doing, how they were acting in order to regain anything that I knew how to do before the accident. All I could figure out at this time was that this was not who I was.
With time and my family's help, things began to improve for me. My mother got me a weight set, my father bought me a bicycle and I started volunteering at a local hospital, which gave me access to their physical therapy rooms. I'd learn what they were doing for rehabilitation and go back home at night to do the exercises on my own in order to regain my strength and abilities. But without any medical oversight, I'd overdo it and I would hurt myself repeatedly. There were many times, my mother took me to the hospital because I hurt so bad that I couldn't walk or move.
Socially, things were awkward. One day after volunteering, I was leaving the hospital and I saw a woman fall to the floor. My instincts were to grab a wheelchair, put her in it and run her into the emergency room. I thought I was doing the right thing. But in reality, my actions upset the emergency room staff, and the next day, the hospital asked me not to return. I was crushed.
One of the lasting consequences of my Traumatic Brain Injury was that I would slur my words when I spoke and my balance would be off when I walked. Instead of realizing that this is how I am, people just assumed that I was drinking or using drugs. No one would take me serious. It became harder and harder to find where I fit in. For example, I was riding my bicycle and a Bridgeport police officer pulled me over. I explained to him that I suffer from a brain injury. He then asked, "Are you on medication?" when I said yes, he gave me a ticket for riding my bicycle while impaired and then sent me on my way.
While I was struggling daily to live with my brain injury, I ended up with several minor arrests for public urination and things of that nature. When I would ask for help it resulted in me constantly be thrown into State Psychiatric hospitals, such as the former Fairfield Hills Hospital in Newtown Connecticut... After being 4 point restrained and forcefully drugged multiple times and having other patients spitting, urinating, throwing shit at me, and watching them have full blown conversations with themselves, I realized that this type of life wasn't for me. It was like a stay in "One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest." It was cruel and unusual punishment, no one should be treated the way they treated us. My life turned into a constant tug of war. If it was not a mental institution it was a jail cell.
For example, I was walking down the street and I had to use the bathroom. It was very early in the morning and nothing was open. I saw a wooded area by the train tracks. I was using the bathroom behind a tree. I was seen by a Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA police officer that was patrolling the area with his dog. When I spotted him I zipped up my pants and started walking away. When he saw me he let the dog loose. I was severely attacked and had to go to the hospital to be treated for my injuries. When I was released from the hospital I was placed in police custody and informed that I was under arrest for attempted attack on a peace officer because my leg moved when the MTA police dog was attacking me. They accused me of trying to kick the dog. I knew this was crap because I was the one taken to the hospital, not the dog. But the following day I was brought to court. I never saw an attorney; they just continued my case and sent me to Bridgeport Correctional Center for two weeks. I returned to court, this went on for about three months and from there I was transferred to a mental institution for another three months, (Connecticut Valley Hospital in Middletown,) and then I was released on probation. It was like a revolving door, I can't count how many times they did this to me.
With the help of my family, I moved into and out of different apartments. But the pieces of my mind and my life didn't fit quite right. I was restless and depressed. I struggled to cope. I turned to what I saw so many others do on the streets: alcohol and drugs. I learned the wrong way to deal with my problems. I thought it would help me forget all that I suffered through. Everything I long fought for, I now started to lose. It was all slipping away. I found myself alone and getting into trouble more often. I ended up in shelters, local lockups, and numerous mental health facilities all over the state. I continued on my downward spiral and soon I wound up homeless; and not long after that in prison.
The police, the court, the judge and the law, didn't know, care or consider Traumatic Brain Injury, or the fact that I had one. And once behind bars, neither did the warden. I served 5 years for what other people would sleep off overnight in the local lockup, and then clear up with a brief court appearance. Instead, I ended up inside a level four, high security prison, surrounded by gang members, rapists, killers, and child molesters. I was locked in an 8'x10' cell twenty-four hours a day with a vicious inmate next to me. I was always so scared to come out of my cell but at the same time I was scared to be in it, because of all the other inmates and because you had no choice but to be in a 2 man cell.
For example, One day I started to realize that a lot of my things were going missing. When I realized my cellie was stealing from me, I let the Correctional Officer (CO) know during wreck what was going on and I asked for a cell change. I can only imagine that the CO said something to him because after wreck, my cellie attacked me in my cell. After every wreck they do a count and when the CO came by my cell he saw us on the floor fighting. Next thing I knew there were CO's pulling us off one another and putting us in handcuffs and shackles and dragging us off to the AD/SEG for 2 weeks. From there I was sent back to my cell and was put on CTQ for the next 30 days, and I lost all my property (everything) - CTQ is Confinement to Quarters 23 hours a day lockdown, were you can only come out of your cell for a shower, in reality it's 15min. and ASU is Administrative Segregation Unit also known as AD/SEG or the hole. I guess the difference between the two is that if an inmate receives CTQ as a disciplinary action the inmate stays in his same house (cell) but is confined to that area. Where if he was doing AD/SEG time he is in a totally different housing unit; things like this were always happening to me.
I was put in prison for Violation of probation. Due to lack of services for TBI sufferers, I was again homeless. I was walking down a road and I needed to pee and nothing was open. Due to my previous experience with the MTA dog, I was very leery to relieve myself outside. So when I saw a garage open I went inside and took care of business. As I turned around I saw a Fairfield Police Officer standing there. I asked him, "is there a problem officer?" The next thing I knew I felt a hand on the back of my neck and I was thrown to the ground. From there I was handcuffed and thrown in the back of a police car. The police officer got in the car and once he was driving, I asked again "What's wrong, I was just taking a piss?"
The next day I was brought to court, from there to Bridgeport Correctional Center. I was housed and brought back and forth and the last day I was brought to court I was told by the Public Defender/"pretender" that I was going to the Connecticut Valley hospital to a brain injury unit but before this happened I needed to see a judge. Yes, they all knew I had a brain injury and how I needed help, but they chose not to. When I was brought upstairs to the courtroom it was closed off for a private hearing. Someone from the state office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities, a doctor and my mother were there waiting. We were all told I was going to the hospital into a TBI unit, but needed to see the judge first. Bridgeport Superior court judge Lubbie Harper Jr. never heard anyone's statement, he opened my file and closed it and said he was sentencing me to the department of Corrections because they have one of the best mental health systems in the state. I'm still on NO medication and I never saw any shrinks, in or out of jail and I'm NOT mentally ill and when I was put into prison I was put into general population. This time the court gave me 5 years V.O.P. for taking a piss.
It’s bad enough that while behind bars; I received absolutely no help for my disabilities. There was no early release, or time off for good behavior from my sentence. Traumatic Brain Injury or not, I served every measure of that sentence to the fullest. It was hell!
During my incarcerations, I suffered many indignities and witnessed atrocities. I spent years locked up twenty-three and a half hours a day, only being allowed out to shower and make a phone call. I was constantly sent to the medical ward and stripped absolutely naked and left there for days or weeks at a time. I've witnessed murders and rapes, and there were even nights I would be yelling and screaming in my sleep. Only to be woken up by the CO and put back into a strip cell. Words cannot express the horror of it all. All during a five year prison sentence. Five years that I spent every minute enduring one indignity or another.
Somehow, I survived to be released. Life though continues to be a struggle. I have no friends. I have no money. I have few options, and fewer choices. I am very uncertain of my future. I still want the American Dream, but it feels further away than ever. I want to be hopeful, but I know all too well how quickly good can go bad in life. But I try my best to help those with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) get the help we need, and to avoid the mistakes, and missteps I made.
Slavery in Southbury
Concerning: Employment Options, LLC 800 Main St. South Suite 102 Southbury, CT 06488
Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman!
Office of the Governor
210 Capitol Avenue Hartford, CT. 06106
RE: Allegations of Identity theft amongst human services workers Attention: Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman
I am writing to you regarding an issue of concern that is very likely to impact the Office of the Governor. In the past month I have reported these issues to Homeland Security, Office of the Attorney General, Department of Social Services (DSS), and Allied Community Resources. The media is researching this issue and the information herein will be going to John G. Rowland at WTIC NewsTalk 1080. It is my hope that the administration, DSS, and the media will thoroughly investigate the allegations listed herein. I believe that the administration may at least look into the allegations here but it is possible that DSS may have reason to avoid a proper investigation. Therefore, I am giving the information to as many different entities as possible with the hope that someone dispels the allegations herein. There are vulnerable people with disabilities who may be at-risk. In addition, we have vulnerable immigrants who may be working in an environment that is akin to modern day slavery!
The allegations are as follows:
1.There is allegedly an identity theft or identity manipulation ring at a company that provides services to individuals on the Acquired Brain Injury Waiver Program. Dorian Long (DSS) can provide you with the name of the company!
2.It is alleged that the staff purchase and sell identities from immigrants with work visas. 3.It is alleged that the individuals who purchase the identities pay the individual from whom they have purchased the identity.
1.An individual at the company worked under the name Adjowa (odd jew wah). This individual indicated to me that Adjowa is not her real name but is the name of her sixty year old aunt who has since returned to Ghana. Adjowa is at best thirty-ﬁve years of age.
2.Adjowa stated that when she arrived in Connecticut she did not have a work visa and chose to use her aunt’s information to work as her aunt had a work visa.
3.Adjowa stated that when she received her work visa in her real name (Matilda Pearson) that she sold the name and identity of Matilda Pearson to her cousin. I do not know the cousins real name.
4.The cousin in turn took Matilda’s information and secured work at the same company.
5.Obviously, the individual who worked under the name Matilda Pearson is not really Matilda Pearson and could not have been properly vetted by the company.
6.Adjowa (i.e., Matilda Pearson) indicated that the identity she gave her “cousin” contained the picture of Adjowa (i.e., Matilda Pearson). Adjowa had worked at the company for at least four years prior to her cousin arriving at the company. One assumes that company officials would have recognized the picture of a long-time employee (I.e., Adjowa or Matilda Pearson) being provided by another individual claiming to be the person in the picture.
7.I have always known Adjowa (i.e., Matilda Pearson’s) husband by the name Bruce. Adjowa indicated that her husband’s name is not Bruce. She indicated that her husband’s real name is Vincent. 8. Bruce (i.e., Vincent) worked at the same company years ago. Adjowa indicated that Bruce (i.e., Vincent) has sold his identity to workers at the company on two separate occasions.
9. Most importantly, Adjowa indicated that there have been a number of staff, primarily from Ghana that have implemented this scheme at the company.
10. Adjowa indicated that it is an open secret in the Ghanian community that this scheme can lead to employment for those from Ghana without a work visa.
11. Individuals at the company are paid a salary and are required to work as many as 128 hours per week or more. This practice is legal. However, these individuals are providing services to as many as three individuals with brain injury simultaneously which brings into question the quality of care and the ethics of such a practice. Granted 56 of the hours are likely overnight services. However, that still leaves an average of 10 hours of service per day during the week to provide direct care service to three individuals.
12.Due to the complexity of coordinating such services, survivors rarely venture into the community after work hours and on weekends. Essentially, survivors are relegated to their residence from Friday evening until Monday morning. This is a community-based program that has been marketed to Centers for Medicaid Services as promoting community integration.
13.DSS has approved a number of staff from this company to provide the highest level service on the program (i.e., Independent Living Skills Training). DSS has increased the criteria needed to secure the ILST designation. Individuals from this company have attempted to secure work outside of the company in question. When their documents are submitted by a competitor who wants to hire the staff the ﬁduciary (Allied Community Resources,, Inc) informs the potential new provider that these individuals are not approved to provide the service. Therefore, they are approved to provide the service under the agency with engaging in possible identity issues but not allowed to provide the service to other companies. It is not the case that the agency has a special designation that allows them to special consideration for the ILST service. The company does have a special designation for vocational services but not ILST.
14.The case against this alleged larceny can be made without a piece of documentation directly from the company. Adjowa indicated that she placed her paycheck from the company into her Matilda Pearson bank account. She stated that the cousin deposited her check into a bank account with her real name.
15. The Connecticut Drivers License for Matilda Pearson had the following address: 1331 Burnside Avenue, East Hartford, CT.
16.I asked Adjowa to come forward. She refused. She stated that she and her husband have applications for citizenship and she does not want to harm her chances of obtaining citizenship.
4.There have been alleged larcenies committed against individuals with brain injury at this company.
5.A Connecticut State Trooper (Oxford Resident State Trooper Ryan Frechette) pursued a Ghanian immigrant regarding a larceny. He requested a picture of the suspect as well as the suspect’s personnel ﬁle. When he looked at the picture and the Connecticut Drivers License he noticed that these were not the same individual. This is a different individual from the group mentioned under item number 3.
6.The Connecticut State Trooper placed a called the woman who is pictured on the Drivers License. The Trooper indicated that the woman stated that her identiﬁcation had been stolen. The Trooper stated to me that he does not believe the woman. He stated that his instincts are telling him that this woman knows the woman who is working under her identity.
7.In November 2013 an employee at the company was arrested for working under a false social security number. It is believed that the woman who was arrested is also the woman the trooper called. That is the belief of a group of people who have seen the pictures.
8.I spoke with a Ghanian immigrant who is legally employed in law enforcement for the State of Connecticut. He has also worked in the ﬁeld of Human Services. He indicates that this identity pyramid scheme is a pervasive. He believes that as many as half or more of the Ghanian employees that have ever worked at the company may have done so under false documents.
9.An additional issue is that the company allegedly misleads consumers regarding their services. For example, let’s say the brain injury survivor is scheduled to receive three services. Let’s call the services A, B, and C. For sake of simplicity let’s say the client is to receive 20 hours of A, B, and C respectively for a total of 60 hours. The agency places a staff person with the survivor and provides 60 hours of service. However, the staff person is approved to provide service A and B but is not approved to provide service C. The company does not bill for service C but it also does not indicate to the survivor, the family, or the community-based team that the person providing the service is not approved to provide the service. If the team were informed they could hire a different company solely to provide service C. Imagine going to get your vehicle repaired and you need three parts. The service professional gives you two parts and rigs your car so it is not obvious to you that the company did not have the third item. Whether it is done to prevent a potential competitor from entering the space or an attempt to buy time to later secure these hours it is unethical at a minimum and it seriously impairs evaluation of client progress as the team is assuming the client is receiving the services.
10.One of the homes managed by a Ghanian was found to have locks on the refrigerator, limited phone access for the clients (i.e., staff have cell phones and a fax machine occupies the phone line), and unclean living environments as documented through photographs taken by visitors. Please request a letter written by a conservator who recently removed her survivor from the agency due to similar concerns. The case is based in Danbury Connecticut.
11. A representative of the company indicated to me that a staff person of one of my clients had taken the clients’ identity and secured food from the Southbury Food Bank. It is believed that the food was given to another individual and the food mailed to Ghana.
12. The company provides each house with a food card on a weekly or biweekly basis. The cards are alleged to be converted into cash or gift cards and these funds are sent to Ghana.
13. The individual who related information in bullets 11 and 12 was informed of what I learned about Adjowa (i.e., Matilda Pearson). A week later Adjowa (i.e., Matilda Pearson) left the country and returned to Ghana. Adjowa indicated to me that she did not believe that the current administration would take serious action against her and she planned to return to her home in East Hartford. She did indicate that her father is ill and she would go to Ghana but she had every intention of returning to her 1331 Burnside Avenue East Hartford residence.
14.Interestingly, Adjowa indicated that she is approved to work as an ILST under the name Matilda Pearson. Therefore, she has contacted Allied Community Resources and secured approval to go into the homes of people with brain injuries as private contractor despite the allegations herein.
15.Two additional issues that are not directly related to the undocumented workers but shows a pattern of problems are as follows: A staff person was killed in a motor vehicle accident. It is alleged that the staff person had just returned from transporting a client. It is alleged that the brakes on the company car failed. A client was injured in a motor vehicle accident. It is alleged that the client was unbelted. It is alleged that the staff could not provide a reasonable explanation for being in the area where the accident occurred.
The questions I have may not be relevant to the Office of the Governor but they may be relevant to the public.
1.Is the safety and security of individuals with disabilities a serious issue for Governor Malloy and his administration?
2.Would it be prudent to investigate the allegations listed above to ensure that individuals in our state are not subjected to undocumented workers?
3.Is it Medicaid fraud to receive payment for work done by undocumented workers?
4. How are workers allowed to provide the highest level service on the program for one company but the same individuals cannot provide the same service for other companies?
5. Has DSS created a system (wittingly or unwittingly) of indentured servitude within this company? Essentially, is DSS enslaving Ghanian immigrants by not allowing those who may be working legally to transfer their credentials to other companies?
6. Other companies are attempting to have their staff (American citizens) approved to provide the service but are frequently rebuffed by the ﬁduciary due to stringent and arbitrary rules put in place by Dorian Long who administers the program. Allied Community Resources (ACR) indicates that the rules regarding approval are exclusively determined by Dorian Long (DSS) during weekly phone conferences between Ms. Long and ACR management.
7. The company in question is believed to be the largest company on the waiver program. Is it possible that there is a private agreement between DSS and the agency? The rumor on the street is that the company is a potential target for union takeover. While there is no proof to support this theory, it is reasonable that competitors might begin to question why there appears to be alleged preferential treatment.
I bring these issues to your attention for a number of reasons. Let’s be clear, the most basic reason is that I have knowledge of these issues. If something happens at a later point and it is stated that I was aware of the practice, I have no doubt that I would be held accountable as I should. Informing is a thankless job and my life would be a lot simpler if I did not know this information. However, my burden is now your burden! If there are any questions please contact me directly.
Respectfully, Tariq Abdulaziz, Ph.D., M.S., MBA! President & Director, NeuroStrategies, Inc.
I have been through the ringer, between the State of Connecticut as well as program providers such like Employment Options LLC. I want to personally thank my Doctor (Tariq Abdulaziz) for everything that he has done already as well as the fight he continues and the support he gives to not only brain injury survivors but all people with disabilities. We definitely need more doctors just like him. People who actually care!
Craig Sears, Member CTBISN (Ct Brain Injury Support Network)