Cryptocurrency, payroll loans, COVID-19 funds: 25 Investigates probes Boston nursing home’s finances

BOSTON — As a Boston nursing home faces a potential closure in July, residents and community members are calling for answers and accountability from state and federal officials.

One of their top concerns: the high pay of Edgar P. Benjamin Healthcare Center CEO Tony Francis.

His salary quadrupled from at least $156,181 in 2015 – to $628,592 by 2021.

25 Investigates has found that’s the top reported administrator salary for any non-profit nursing home in Boston. His total compensation tops $930,000 – including pension, insurance, and payroll taxes.

“You’re making $600,000 to 900,000 a year, why couldn’t you take a pay cut if you realize the facility was in financial straits?” the nursing home’s former bookkeeper Delroy McDonald said.

In December, 25 Investigates revealed that workers went weeks without pay and access to health insurance. And we found that when workers did get paychecks in January — they bounced.

“He is getting an astronomical amount of money to run a nursing home,” Adam Owens, a Mattapan resident whose 57-year-old wife Rhonda lives at the nursing home, said.

Francis did not agree to speak on-camera with 25 Investigates, and he did not respond to messages left at his office and at his Needham home last week.

His spokesperson David Ball in an emailed statement said: “The Edgar P. Benjamin Healthcare Center continues to provide high-quality care in a safe environment and remains focused on assuring appropriate and orderly resident transfers. The economic climate for long-term care is devastating and continued operation of the facility is simply not sustainable.”

Francis has told the state he wants to close the nursing home – which has served Mission Hill and Roxbury for much of the past century – on July 1 due to “insurmountable” fiscal challenges.

Nursing homes do face challenges: the Edgar P. Benjamin nursing home is certified to provide 205 certified beds – but only 76 residents currently live there. A charter school rents one floor of the nursing home, while one wing has remained shuttered for several years. And an employee said the nursing home has converted triple and quadruple occupancy rooms to double occupancy rooms.

Still – 25 Investigates has obtained internal documents that shed light on the home’s finances and raise troubling questions about its leadership.


Board meeting minutes dated April 27, 2023 say the home lost $100,000 in a crypto exchange.

“The facility lost about $100,000 dollars through a crypto exchange,” read the minutes. “We did try to get the money back, but they said we had to put another $20,000.00.”

Those same minutes say two board members approved a motion for a “CEO raise of 5% and a bonus of $70,000.”

And board meeting minutes dated Jan. 30, 2023 describe an agreement to pay back Francis at 12% interest for his loans to the nursing home.

“The CEO has been taking out loans from his personal account to give to the company for payroll a couple of times,” the minutes read. “He sent a note to the Board Member when he took $64,000.00 out to add to the payroll, and then just this week, he also expected to takeout $23,000.00.”

“The CEO is asking the Board Members to approve of him charging the facility 12% interest anytime he takes money off his account or a loan to help pay payroll,” according to the minutes.

Those minutes say that two board members agreed to a “motion to approve charging the facility 12% interest anytime Tony Francis takes money from his account or a loan to help pay payroll.”

Several board meeting minutes describe issues making payroll – and potential increases in Medicaid reimbursement.

Minutes from Sept. 28, 2023 read: “As mentioned, the CEO has been using personal funds to cover payroll shortfalls. He currently has approximately $150,000.00 used in payroll, and we are unsure when he can get his reimbursed funds. Payroll may get better because we are getting an increase in MassHealth reimbursement.”

Those minutes also say that the nursing home was “behind on our bills” and had to halt use of a wheelchair van.

25 Investigates also obtained copies of utility bills showing the nursing home owes hundreds of thousands of dollars.

A January 2024 bill for Boston Water and Sewer Commission shows the nursing home owes just over $175,000.

And a January 2024 Eversource bill shows nearly $340,000 owed.

On Feb. 28, family members, employees and community members sent a letter to Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell and Department of Public Health asking the state to take over the nursing home through a receivership.

“We believe the level, depth and breadth of the financial mismanagement and questionable dealings is massive,” reads the letter. “At this point, we believe his decisions are not based on what is in the best interest of patients, staff and community but rather are designed to cover up his past misdeeds. It is imperative that the Attorney General and the Department of Public Health move now to stop him from destroying the only Black founded, owned, and operated nursing home facility in New England.”

25 Investigates asked the AG’s office if it’s looking into concerns about potential financial wrongdoing at the nursing home.

The AG’s office declined to address whether it’s pursuing a receivership.

“Receivership is a tool available to the state under certain conditions,” the AG’s office said in a statement. “Whether, how and when to use that tool involves considerations of legal strategy that we cannot discuss publicly.”

Boston City Councilor Benjamin Weber has called for the AG’s office to look into the issue of missing and bounced paychecks – and to pursue enforcement even if the nursing home faces potential closure.

“We have a very strong wage payment law here,” he said. “We need to enforce the right of these healthcare workers to get paid what they need to get paid.”

The spokesperson for the Attorney General this month “issued a $15,000 citation to the Center for failure to make timely payment of wages due and secured approximately $190,000 in restitution for workers.”

The Department of Public Health said it is closely monitoring the proposed closure process and holding a public hearing on March 12. DPH would have to approve a closure plan before the nursing home could close.

Meanwhile, local lawmakers are also asking questions.

“People, the residents, including myself as an elected official, we still have, you know, deeper questions into, why is this happening right now?” Boston City Councilor Henry Santana said.


The home reported $11 million in revenue in 2021, according to its IRS 990 filings.

Most of its revenue comes from the government via Medicaid.

25 Investigates finds the home also received $3.2 million in federal COVID-19 assistance through the federal Paycheck Protection Program.

And roughly $900,000 a year comes from a Roxbury charter school that pays rent to lease the top floor.

In 2021, the nursing home reported $11 million in expenses.

It also reported about $6.5 million in liabilities – including accrued payroll.

Those IRS filings documents don’t shed light on what the other liabilities are.

A Feb. 28 letter that community members sent to state officials seeking a receivership questioned why the nursing home has failed to pay bills when it’s received millions of dollars in COVID-19 assistance.

The letter also claims that Francis did not use the COVID-19 assistance to maintain staff.

According to IRS filings, the nursing home reports it employed 117 people in 2021.

That’s down from 157 in 2019, and 181 reported in 2020.

“Mr. Francis announced to the staff 2 years ago that the facility has $2 million in reserves,” reads the letter. “At a staff meeting Mr. Francis stated that the money (mostly PPP) was being saved for a rainy day. He wasn’t paying basic vendor bills, such as food, utilities, water, or payroll. There is no rational explanation for any of the financial difficulties the Benjamin dealt with in 2023 and raises major questions as to the basis for Benjamin’s financial difficulties.”


The nursing home’s former bookkeeper, Delroy McDonald, left in 2014.

He said he sat on the committee that decided to hire Francis by the fall of that year.

“He has lost the sense of his commitment to the mission of what Mr. Benjamin set in place, you know, almost 100 years ago,” McDonald said.

“It hurts me a lot that that has been happening,” McDonald said.

25 Investigates found the nursing home’s board of directors has shrunk from 13 in 2015, to 4 currently.

That’s according to our review of IRS and state corporation filings.

“Over the years, Tony’s salary has increased,” McDonald said. “He started to get rid of the large board.”

“Tony Francis thinks that this is his private entity,” McDonald said. “He can make any decision that he wants, and he brings anyone on the board that will support his ideas, and he fires anyone who challenges the decisions that he’s making.”

A Feb. 28 letter that community members sent to family members seeking a receivership said the board of directors bears “responsibility for what appears to be a wholesale failure of fiduciary responsibility to monitor, oversee and check the wanton and reckless behavior.”

“While the by-laws historically required that local community representation and patients’ family representatives serve on the Board, that policy appears to have fallen completely away,” reads the letter.

The letter raises other concerns – from the amount of money Francis receives from business reimbursements on his American Express card, to the oversight of patient accounts and their own COVID-19 stimulus checks.

25 investigates reached out to every person listed as serving on the nursing home’s board of directors.

None of them agreed to an on-camera interview.

Board member Joana Angel did not respond to 25 Investigates’ repeated requests for comment by phone and in-person.

Another board member, Tatiana Bougdaeva, said she did not have concerns with the nursing home’s management before hanging up.

Board member Demond Vicks, who answered a call from a phone number with Texas area code, said: “You would have to talk to Tony. Thank you.”

Vicks then hung up.

Former Massachusetts state Rep. Royal Bolling was listed as a board chairman in 2021.

He told 25 Investigates by phone that he was voted out when he began raising questions about Francis’ compensation.

“No, I left that board,” Bolling said. “I have nothing to do with that institution at all.”

“I didn’t like what was going on there,” Bolling said. “When I raised questions, about it, they took a vote and voted me off the board.”

“I was informed about the compensation rate,” he said. “I was very upset about it. I voiced my concern. However, the response was to vote me off the board.”

“I was kept in the dark,” he said.


Dignity Alliance Massachusetts co-founder Paul Lanzikos said financial oversight of homes like the Benjamin is sorely lacking.

“Right now, the state is running, 2 to 3 years behind looking at the operations, the financial operations of nursing homes,” he said. “Especially over the last few years when there’s been a real influx of additional funding, but there’s no accountability, how that money was spent.”

University of Boston gerontology professor Edward Miller said it’s up to federal and state agencies to investigate questionable use of Medicaid funds.

“Are they using it to improve patient care, to provide care to patients, or is some of it being, you know, siphoned off as profit?” he said.

25 Investigates reached out to office of the State Auditor Diana DiZoglio.

In an emailed statement, Auditor DiZoglio wrote, “The allegations raised about the Edgar Benjamin Healthcare Center are indeed incredibly concerning. The Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Division is the entity that has the authority to investigate and prosecute health care providers concerning allegations such as those raised. We stand at the ready should the Office of Attorney General require our assistance.”

25 Investigates also examined oversight bills sponsored by state lawmakers.

In 2023, Democratic state Sen. Patricia Jehlen sponsored a bill to require nursing homes to submit annual, audited financial reports.

That bill died in committee in February.

In 2017, Republican Sen. Peter Durant sponsored a bill to limit high salaries for nonprofit executives.

That bill died in committee in 2018.

Durant said Benjamin’s potential closure highlights the need for lawmakers to take another look at such financial issues.

“It certainly needs oversight,” he said. “And it’s certainly something that we should be looking at.”

Local and state elected officials said there are parallels between the potential closure of the Edgar P. Benjamin nursing home – and worries over potential closures of area hospitals run by for-profit Steward Health Care.

“The whole situation just shows that we have a huge gap in our health care system, and that the people who need to help most often are left to be in a facility where the administrator might cut costs and enrich themselves in the process,” Boston City Councilor Benjamin Weber said.

25 Investigates has revealed how families of Benjamin residents who have already started looking for beds nearby say they’re facing long waits.

“I got calls from family members stating that some places are telling them a year, six months to a year,” Director of Nursing Marie Colsoul said. “They are in despair because we have a lot of families that are out of state.”

Employees say families simply don’t have the support, time or resources to find new homes for all 76 residents by July 1.

“We are hoping that the state will come and take a look at what’s going on in here, and hopefully we’ll keep the door open for the sake of our residents,” Colsoul said.

“We are pleading for anybody to help us because our residents are distraught,” she said. “Some of the residents are telling me: ‘Marise, please save us.’ So, this is what we are doing and trying to save them because this is their home.”

Those fighting for the Benjamin to stay open say change needs to happen – so the care of elderly residents comes first.

“Don’t sit quietly and let this person bring down an institution that has been there for so long,” McDonald said.

Friday, March 8 Edit: Representative Ayanna Pressley’s office provided the following statement after Boston 25′s story originally aired.

“We are concerned by the displacement of critical nursing home space in the heart of the Massachusetts 7th. The residents and their families deserve to find the care they need in the neighborhood they call home. We are monitoring the situation closely and have been updated by leaders in the Mission Hill community, and I hope my office can be helpful in ensuring those families are able to remain connected to this community in a nursing home facility. In the meantime, in light of the grave allegations of wrongdoing and financial mismanagement, there must be a full, transparent, and thorough investigation.”

A spokesperson for Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s office said on Monday, March 11:

“I am monitoring the situation regarding the potential closure of Edgar P. Benjamin Health Care, a facility that has served the  Roxbury community for years. The allegations of financial mismanagement and wrongdoing at this facility are deeply concerning, and it is crucial that a comprehensive investigation takes place to uncover any misconduct. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect in nursing homes.”

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