An ex-caregiver pleaded guilty this week to sexually assaulting two women in San Diego-area nursing homes.
Matthew Fluckiger’s plea comes one month before the 37-year-old was to be retried on charges that he attacked the women while they were in his care in 2019. The plea agreement calls for Fluckiger to serve 25 years to life in prison.
“This spares the victims from having to relive the trauma of a second trial,” San Diego County Deputy District Attorney Joshua Brisbane said.
A jury convicted former certified nursing assistant Fluckiger in March of sexually assaulting a woman at La Mesa’s Parkway Hills Nursing and Rehabilitation in January 2020.
But jurors hung on counts involving two other women. One lived at the Avocado Post Acute nursing home and the other at San Diego Post-Acute Center, both in El Cajon. Eleven jurors voted to convict Fluckiger, one to acquit.
Scott Fikes, an attorney representing the Avocado Post Acute victim, said he hoped that Fluckiger’s admission of guilt would help his victims heal.
“They now have the opportunity for closure,” Fikes said.
The case against Fluckiger cast doubt on how nursing homes and their regulators at the California Department of Public Health handle accusations of sexual assault.
Fluckiger was first accused of sexual misconduct in 2017, when workers at Parkside Health & Wellness Center told state investigators that he had offered to provide a resident with cigarettes in exchange for sex.
CDPH took no action against Fluckiger, enabling him to continue to work with vulnerable women in nursing homes. In 2019, the Avocado victim accused Fluckiger of sexually assaulting her during a diaper change, according to CDPH records reviewed by KPBS.
The woman said she immediately reported the attack to multiple caregivers and administrators at Avocado. But the facility’s administration maintained that the woman only reported “rough handling” and waited eight days before alerting police, records show.
Ultimately, state regulators believed Avocado administrators over the victim and characterized the incident as “rough handling.”
CDPH allowed Fluckiger to keep his certified nursing assistant's license even as investigators told him that they doubted his innocence, records show. He went on to work in at least two other nursing homes, where he sexually violated two more women.
It wasn’t until December 2020, after KPBS reported on the case of one of Fluckiger’s accusers, that the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office charged him in three cases.
Avocado did not respond to a request for comment on Fluckiger’s guilty plea. CDPH said it would be unable to meet KPBS’s deadline.
CDPH ultimately fined Avocado $2,000 for failing to report the sexual assault accusations against Fluckiger to authorities in a timely manner, records show. The agency also imposed a $16,000 fine against Parkway Hills, where Fluckiger attacked a third woman. The facility was cited for not monitoring inappropriate behavior by staff and not vetting job candidates for past abuse, records show.
Fikes, who sues nursing homes on behalf of people reporting abuse, said the sad fact was that little has changed to prevent sexual assaults in nursing homes since the accusations against Fluckiger surfaced.
“It’s had no effect broadly,” Fikes said. “And it’s not clear what happens to the administrators and state investigators who failed to do their jobs.”