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June trial set for Cardwell

A June 4 trial has been set for the federal criminal cases against a former Powell Valley Healthcare official and an Indiana man who are alleged to have conspired to embezzle nearly $850,000 from the organization.

Former PVHC Chief Executive Officer Paul D. Cardwell and Michael J. Plake of West Lafayette, Ind., pleaded not guilty to 15 felony counts at their arraignment in U.S. District Court in Cheyenne last week.

The two men are free on $50,000 unsecured bonds pending their next court appearance, but are prohibited from traveling outside of Wyoming and Indiana without permission from federal authorities. Court records say Cardwell will be living with his mother in Tipton, Ind., while Plake will remain at his West Lafayette, Ind., home.

Cardwell, who had been living in Thailand, was required to give up his passport as a condition of his bond, as was Plake.

They appeared in court voluntarily last week and were not taken into custody.

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Freudenthal. If the case goes to trial, it will be held in her Cheyenne courtroom.

The 15-count indictment from the Grand Jury, handed down March 15, alleges a scheme between the two men that began in March. That’s when Cardwell allegedly told PVHC’s director of recruiting, Mike Gilmore, that he’d be handling all physician recruitment. The indictment alleges that was part of a fraudulent billing scheme in which Cardwell would send money to a limited liability company created by Plake, called Plake and Associates, and claim it was for Plake to do recruiting.

In reality, Plake — who has a background in music and religious education — was to pocket 25 percent of the money and send 75 percent back to Cardwell, the indictment says.

Cardwell had Powell Valley Healthcare pay $847,884 to Plake and Associates via 12 checks, according to the allegations. Those checks, sent via Federal Express, are the basis for the 12 counts of mail fraud. The payments allegedly began with a $57,200 check to Plake and Associates in April 2011 and concluded with a $90,638 check on Sept. 20, 2011.

Plake allegedly kicked the money to Cardwell via checks and overseas wire transfers. Plake also transferred some of the money to himself via an overseas wire transfer, the indictment says, related to the count of money laundering.

On Sept. 25, with PVHC auditors questioning the payments to Plake, the two men allegedly exchanged an email containing fabricated invoices and contracts between Plake and Associates and Powell Valley Healthcare — constituting the count of wire fraud.

On Sept. 26, Cardwell resigned, though he later asked to rescind his resignation, citing “deceitful” communications from HealthTech. HealthTech is suing Cardwell in connection with the embezzlement allegations.

Though Cardwell and Plake were arraigned last Tuesday, the Clerk of District Court’s Office in Cheyenne did not unseal the case file until after press time Wednesday.

Plake, a youth minister at the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Center serving Purdue University, has been placed on paid leave while the case is pending, Fr. Patrick Baikauskus told local TV station WLFI.

“It’s very sad,” Baikauskus said of the situation, adding that, “in charity, we presume that he (Plake) is innocent until any other disposition.”

Plake’s attorney, Sean Barrett of Cheyenne, declined to comment on the case when reached Monday. He cited ethics rules which limit statements attorneys can make outside of the courtroom.

On Saturday, Plake posted a passage of scripture from the book of Jeremiah on his Facebook wall without comment.

“All those who were my friends are on the watch for any misstep of mine. ... But the Lord is with me, like a mighty champion; my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph. In their failure they will be put to utter shame, to lasting, unforgettable confusion,” says a portion of the scripture Plake posted. “O Lord of hosts, you who test the just, who probe mind and heart, let me witness the vengeance you take on them, for to you I have entrusted my case.”

The scripture, from Jeremiah 20:10-13, was a portion of the Roman Catholic lectionary — or scripture reading — for March 30. Plake has not posted other scripture readings on his public profile recently.

Meanwhile, officials at the Monticello, Ind., hospital Cardwell helmed before coming to Powell said they are opening an investigation into his time there.

“We are cooperating with the authorities in their investigation of Paul Cardwell,” said Carrie North, a spokesman for Indiana University Health Arnett, in a statement to the Monticello Herald Journal. IU Health acquired the White County Memorial Hospital in April 2011; Cardwell took an early retirement from the facility in February 2010.

“Although Mr. Cardwell has never been an employee of IU Health White Memorial Hospital, we are moving forward with our investigation, as well,” North said.

A message left for Cardwell’s attorney, Robert Horn of Jackson, was not returned.

The 15 counts carry a maximum combined penalty of 290 years in prison and $3.75 million in fines. However, under federal sentencing guidelines, the two men would likely face only a fraction of those penalties if convicted, given their apparent lack of prior criminal history and other factors.

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2 comments

  • posted by Doctors wife

    April 03, 2012 12:34 pm

    Dewey--as a doctor's wife I am NO trophy, and I have seen my husband and his contemporaries serve their patients with integrity and honor here in Powell. This was an outside job from two men who saw Powell as ripe for the picking. We give people the benefit of the doubt here, and we were taken advantage of. YOUR Gloom and Doom can go elsewhere. This article has nothing to do with Obamacare either. Sheesh.

  • posted by Dewey

    April 03, 2012 11:28 am

    You can't make this stuff up.

    But it makes a pretty good case for removing the profit and greed motivation from medicine and go to single payer public option national health care, doesn't it ? Look no further than l'il ole naive Powell Wyoming to see a fervant example of why the new Robber Barons are turning health care into a big money laundering Ponzi scheme on so many levels in so many devious ways. America's Big medicine for-profit healthcare system is alone in the civilized world for its epidemic of Greeditis and out of control costs ( the two are not unrelated). We let the corporations, the Insurance gluttons, Big Pharma, Doctor Doom, the guy who owns the MRI -ATM machine franchise, the HMO's and that doctor's trophy wife in her Mercedes convertible turn our basic health care needs into a monumental temple of corruption. For Profit Medicine...you want it, you got it. Can you live with it, or just die from the lack of it ?

    Obamacare and socialized medicine are not the evil things here . But guys like Cardwell and the devout Mr. Plake might be.

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