Royal Thai Tourist Police arrested Cardwell in Hua Hin, a beach resort town, on Friday morning.
“Locals tipped off police to his location after they became suspicious about a wealthy foreigner living a life of luxury seemingly without working,” reported the Bangkok Post, an English-language daily newspaper. Cardwell, 47, reportedly had been in the country on a bogus passport.
Cardwell is wanted on U.S. charges alleging he and an accomplice stole nearly $848,000 from Powell Valley Healthcare between March and September 2011, and close to $846,000 between 2003 and 2009 from the former White County Memorial Hospital in Monticello, Ind.
Cardwell had been CEO of the Monticello hospital before coming here. Hospital officials in Indiana only learned of the scheme — which involved sending payments to a non-existent physician recruiting firm — after it was uncovered in Powell.
Prosecutors believe that, after he was fired, Cardwell went to Thailand to buy real estate with the money stolen from Powell Valley Healthcare.
The investigation into Cardwell’s time in Powell culminated in criminal charges in March 2012. Cardwell returned to the United States around that time and pleaded not guilty.
While awaiting trial, Cardwell was released on a $50,000 unsecured bond by U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl. On Aug. 28, Cardwell’s attorneys notified prosecutors they had lost contact with their client. Cardwell’s pre-trial services officer then discovered that Cardwell — who’d surrendered his passport as part of his bond conditions — had unsuccessfully tried getting a new one under his birth name of Paul Sappington. Despite not getting that passport, he somehow found a way to get out of the country.
On Aug. 29, Chief District Court Judge Nancy Freudenthal issued a warrant for Cardwell’s arrest. The search ended Friday in Hua Hin.
Photos on the websites of tabloid Thai Rath (the country’s largest newspaper) and the Independent News Network showed a fit-looking Cardwell sitting at a table surrounded by Thai police at a type of press conference.
Dave Joly, an FBI spokesman in Denver, said it may take up to a month to work through the necessary paperwork and dispatch agents to pick up and escort Cardwell back to the United States.
“(Cardwell) is not in the U.S. yet, but I’m sure that will give his victims some relief to know that this guy won’t be doing this to anybody else any time soon,” Joly said.
Cardwell has been listed as one of the FBI’s most wanted individuals in the realm of white collar crime with about 50 others.
Joly said Cardwell’s presence on the list related to the large amount of money alleged to have been stolen and a desire to publicize Cardwell’s fugitive status.
“We want to make sure that we get these folks” and search for them continuously, Joly said. “We want to make sure we get them in custody and have them stand tall in court for their crimes that they’ve committed, and this guy (Cardwell) is hopefully going to do that here shortly.”
Joly added, “I’m sure Thailand doesn’t want somebody like that in their country, either, for fear that he might do that again.”
The Bangkok Post’s account says Thai police learned Cardwell was in the country about a month ago with a tip about a “mysterious wealthy foreigner.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cheyenne says personnel with the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) division in Bangkok verified Cardwell was in Hua Hin. HSI contacted Royal Thai Tourist Police, who made the arrest.
The Bangkok Post quoted Thai police as saying Cardwell had been living in Hua Hin for about six months, moving there from Pattaya, Thailand.
The paper reported Cardwell was arrested at a house, but rough translations of two Thai accounts indicate Cardwell was apprehended at a fitness center.
Whichever it was, it could be the last place Cardwell visits as a free man for some time.
Cardwell faces 13 felony counts in Wyoming’s federal court and another in Indiana related to the thefts.
Further, there are indications in court filings that Indiana authorities have been investigating whether Cardwell ran a separate, but similar, scheme in Indiana with a man who has not been charged with wrongdoing.
John Powell, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cheyenne, said it’s likely Cardwell will face additional charges related to his flight from authorities. Where Cardwell goes first upon his return to the United States likely will be a point of negotiation, Powell said.
Cardwell’s accomplice in the hospital billing scheme, Michael J. Plake of West Lafayette, Ind., cooperated and pleaded guilty to three felonies. Plake was sentenced May 6 to 30 months in prison and ordered to pay back the entire $1.69 million stolen; Cardwell would be ordered to help pay it back if convicted.
In addition to the criminal penalties, Judge Freudenthal recently issued a civil judgment against Plake and Cardwell in a suit filed by Powell Valley Healthcare and its management company, HealthTech Management Services Inc. How much Cardwell and Plake will be ordered to pay — and how that money will be obtained — remains to be determined.
“HealthTech looks forward to the conclusion of the federal criminal and civil proceedings, confident that it will result in accountability for Cardwell’s and Plake’s wrongful actions, facilitate financial recovery by HealthTech for the losses it has suffered, and further help the healing process at (Powell Valley Healthcare) and in the Powell community,” said HealthTech CEO Derek Morkel in a prepared statement. Morkel said his company is glad to continue to partner with the Powell hospital to serve the community, and he thanked the hospital’s board for working with HealthTech in good faith.
Powell Valley Healthcare recovered its losses from HealthTech and insurance.
Cardwell’s arrest welcome news at PVHC
By ILENE OLSON, Tribune News Editor
He is in custody? Wow! Wow! Wahoo!”
That was the reaction by Powell Valley Hospital District Treasurer Larry Parker to news of Friday’s arrest of Paul Cardwell, former Powell Valley Healthcare chief executive officer. It was typical of many on the PVHC campus.
“Yes, I will do a dance in the street. That’s incredible!” Parker said during a telephone interview from his home Friday evening.
Bill Patten, current PVHC chief executive officer, described similar reactions of Powell Valley Healthcare employees late Friday afternoon when he sent an email advising of Cardwell’s arrest: “ ‘Woohoo!’ ‘Hooray!’ ‘Good news!’ — those sorts of comments,” he said.
Patten said he sent the email after hospital attorney Scott Kolpitcke confirmed Cardwell’s arrest. Some employees saw the Powell Tribune’s online update before that and rushed in to ask him, “Have you heard? Have you heard?”
Hospital Trustee Deb Kleinfeldt was jubilant as well.
“If you could see my face, it’s all just teeth, because I’m smiling so big,” Kleinfeldt said. “I can’t sit down — I just keep dancing around the kitchen. You should have seen the back flips I did out in the backyard!”
Cardwell, who was PVHC’s chief executive officer from February through September 2011, disappeared in August. That was about three weeks before he was to face charges in federal district court in Cheyenne. Cardwell and co-conspirator Michael Plake of Indiana allegedly stole nearly $1.7 million — about $848,000 from Powell Valley Healthcare and close to $846,000 between 2003 and 2009 from the former White County Memorial Hospital of Monticello, Ind.
Plake was sentenced in May to two and a half years in prison for his role in the deception.
It seemed likely that the wait for Cardwell to be brought to justice could continue for years, until news of his arrest came unexpectedly Friday.
“I wonder how he slipped up?” Patten mused.
Dr. Mark Wurzel serves as president of the PVHC board, comprised of the seven Powell Hospital District board members and three physicians.
Wurzel said he was pleased to get confirmation of the arrest, but he noted that it could take up to a month to extradite Cardwell from Thailand.
“Money talks there,” he said. “He’s so resourceful, I don’t have any confidence that he doesn’t have any more tricks up his sleeve. I’m waiting to see the whites of his eyes.”
Still, Wurzel said Cardwell’s arrest was good news, “and I’m guessing that maybe Plake is feeling like the pain will be shared now. Final closure may be near.”
“Oh, my gosh, that’s good news,” said District Trustee Renee Humphries.
Humphries said Cardwell’s capture “is a good opportunity for us to have closure and for us to heal.”
Hospital Trustee Jim Carlson added, “I think this is the beginning of the end of a long, time-consuming and painful experience.”
Trustee R.J. Kost said, “(Cardwell) needs to be brought to justice, and I’m thankful that they were able to catch him and bring him to trial. He’s put our community and our hospital and our board through a lot. ... Maybe justice can be served now.”
Kleinfeldt said, “I am just so irritated that (Cardwell) just reeled us in. ... He just reeled us in and lied like a rug. But he didn’t think we would catch on, and we did.
“He’s going to be the one looking more stupid than anybody. ... I hope he gets what’s coming — within the law, of course.”