Indian film actor owns East Bay nursing home under criminal investigation after COVID-19 deaths

HAYWARD, Calif. (KGO) -- The ABC7 I-Team has learned that an Indian film actor owns the East Bay nursing home that is now under criminal investigation, after at least 13 patients died in a coronavirus outbreak. More families with loved ones at Gateway Care and Rehabilitation are reaching out to us.

Adrina Rodriguez was shocked to see the lack of staffing at Gateway Care and Rehab, as coronavirus erupted at the Hayward facility.

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She told the I-Team, "I was able to get some staff on the phone who let me know there was only one nursing staff member for the day and that may have been why someone didn't answer the phone. My heart dropped."

Her 74-year-old father, John, is there after suffering a stroke, and Adrina says she's been unable to get answers about how her dad is being protected against infection, from staff or the owner, Antony Thekkek.

"How do you sleep knowing your facility is being run so poorly?" asked Rodriguez. "How are you not there trying to figure it out?"

A search of the state database shows that Antony Thekkek and his wife, Prema, are equal owners of the business. He is something of an Indian film star, acting in many movies, a singer and author. His latest available on Amazon, "The Lady Biker".

The I-Team called several office and cell numbers, their home in Alamo as seen on Google maps, emailed them, and reached out to the couple on Facebook, but have not heard back.

Since the outbreak at his nursing home, Antony has shared an Easter message on Youtube, and told the Kochi Times how he's enduring the shelter in place. He said it's a good time to be creative.

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He made those appearances, with legal trouble headed his way.

"There are many people who have contacted us, who are seeking to receive out assistance," said civil rights attorney Adante Pointer. "And all of them to a T don't want any other family to go through what they've gone through."

Pointer is preparing a lawsuit on behalf of several Gateway residents and their families. "Staff was encouraged, they were pressured to come and work even though Gateway knew the staff were positive with the virus. You had a situation here that was just a tinder box ready to explode."

Pointer also says he'll be briefing Alameda County prosecutors for their criminal investigation into the deaths at Gateway.

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Nursing Home advocates tell us the both civil and criminal legal action is necessary at this point, but it shows a failure of public health officials to perform proper oversight.

Attorney Mike Dark of the California Association of Nursing Home Reform says, "It's what we have to do when the regulators are not stepping up. If there is a legal suit, civil or criminal, it means something terrible has already happened, when we should be working harder to make sure they do not happen in the first place."

A search of state databases shows the Thekkeks own several nursing homes, but were turned down to purchase more five years ago. State inspectors cited problems in their facilities: lack of effective administration, poor infection control, and abuse of patients.

We've also learned other county prosecutors are considering criminal investigations of nursing homes around the Bay Area.They had a conference call this afternoon.

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