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POWELL — A former CEO charged with defrauding a Wyoming hospital of nearly $848,000 disappeared three weeks before his trial was scheduled to start, authorities said.

Paul Cardwell is accused of getting Powell Valley Healthcare to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to an accomplice for recruiting work that was never done. Prosecutors claim Caldwell got 75 percent of the money and the alleged accomplice got the rest.

Caldwell pleaded not guilty. His trial was set for Sept. 18.

The Powell Tribune reported Thursday (http://tinyurl.com/95jcuc2 ) that Cardwell's attorneys told federal prosecutors on Aug. 28 they were unable to contact Caldwell and didn't know where he was.

Defense attorneys Robert York, of Indianapolis, and Robert Horn, of Jackson, Wyo., said in a court document filed Wednesday that Caldwell's phone was out of service and that his mother, who lives in Tipton, Ind., said she hadn't seen him since Aug. 25.

U.S. District Judge Nancy Freudenthal issued an arrest warrant for Caldwell on Aug. 29.

Prosecutors said that after Caldwell disappeared, they learned he unsuccessfully tried to get a passport using a fake name in June.

Cardwell had to surrender his real passport as a condition of his release on a $50,000 unsecured bond.

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The defense lawyers' court filing said Caldwell had agreed to accept a plea deal at a court appearance scheduled for Aug. 29. The deal would have required Cardwell to pay restitution.

Cardwell and his alleged accomplice, Michael J. Plake, of West Lafayette, Ind., were indicted on 15 counts including mail fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Plake has also denied the charges and was scheduled to go on trial with Caldwell. The status of his trial wasn't immediately known.

The hospital has filed a civil lawsuit against both men.

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