POWELL, Wyo. — A federal grand jury has indicted the former chief executive officer of Powell Valley Healthcare on 15 counts of fraud and conspiracy in an alleged scheme to bilk the hospital out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The indictment filed against former CEO Paul Cardwell in U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming includes 12 counts of mail fraud, one count of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud.

"It would be my sense that the local community would be pleased that it looks like the first step in bringing some sort of justice in this case has been taken," Powell Valley's new CEO, Bill Patten, said Wednesday.

"A lot of people are still trying to process the violation of trust that took place here on a personal level."

Patten said Powell Valley's board of trustees has also voted to seek to intervene in a civil lawsuit filed by HealthTech Management Services against Cardwell.

The hospital said the lawsuit also names Michael Plake.

HealthTech, a Tennessee company, filed suit in U.S. District Court in Casper last month. HealthTech hired and employed Cardwell to serve as Powell Valley's CEO.

HealthTech officials couldn't be reached Wednesday for comment. In its lawsuit, HealthTech said Cardwell is believed to be living in Thailand.

Cardwell's tenure as CEO ran from March to September last year. During that time, it is alleged that he authorized spending in excess of $845,000 to recruit hospital staffers.

Much of that money never went to the purpose stated, according to the lawsuit.

"He signed dozens of contracts with a recruiting company," Patten said. "The payments were made to that recruiting company. But it's alleged that the company returned the money, or at least a portion of it, to Cardwell."

Patten, who was hired in late February to replace Cardwell, said the hospital is getting by financially and is able to meet its payroll.

"Notwithstanding any losses, Powell Valley has continued, and will continue, to serve its community and its patients as it always has," the hospital statement said.