Rehab center owner dies in custody

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Helen Sieger, the embattled owner of Kingsbridge Heights Rehabilitation and Care Center, died in custody on April 18 of a gastrointestinal hemorrhage. She was 57.

Ms. Sieger’s history in Kingsbridge Heights was filled with strikes, court battles and scandal. She acquired the 400-bed nursing home, one of the largest in the Bronx, in 1994, with money she received from a family trust left by her parents. 

In 2008, more than 200 workers at Kingsbridge Rehab went on strike because Ms. Sieger refused to pay into their benefit funds. The strike gained national attention and even President Barack Obama issued a statement in support of the strikers during his campaign for president. In August 2008, Ms. Sieger was arrested on charges that she violated the state workers’ compensation law. Later that month, she lost a court battle with 1199 SEIU United Health Care Workers East over contract negotiations and violations of the National Labor Relations Act. A judge ordered Ms. Sieger to pay into funds for workers’ health care and benefits, ending the six-month strike.

During this time, her siblings, who own the property Kingsbridge Rehab sits on, tried to have her evicted. After workers, members of the community and local politicians joined together in 2009 to demand her removal, the Department of Health stepped in, kicked her out and appointed a receiver.

After leaving Kingsbridge Rehab, Ms. Sieger was arrested on grand larceny charges for bribery. According to news reports, she allegedly bribed hospital officials in exchange for referrals to her nursing home. She was also charged with looting $9 million from Kingsbridge Rehab. She skipped bail on those charges and was rearrested in Miami Beach after racking up thousands of dollars at a hotel under an assumed name, according to a Crain’s New York article. After she was returned to New York on August 19, Ms. Sieger was remanded to the court. 

She died in Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, a facility used by the New York City Department of Correction to hold seriously ill inmates.  

Ms. Sieger was scheduled to make an appearance at the Bronx Supreme Courthouse on April 26.