Wednesday, May 7, 2008 | 2 a.m.
- Indictment says UMC chief made no-work deals (2-21-2008)
- Trail from UMC leads to suspect goods (2-1-2008)
- On UMC theft investigation, Collins’ reaction to parking story (4-6-2008)
Beyond the Sun
Not only did University Medical Center employees help their bosses steal from the public hospital — they also charged the hospital tens of thousands of dollars in overtime while doing it, according to police.
For more than a year, Metro Police have been investigating what officers suspect is an elaborate theft scheme at UMC. The investigation is expected to wrap up soon and be taken to a county grand jury.
Prosecutors last year filed a 20-count criminal complaint against two former UMC managers and two employees in the hospital’s facilities department. Authorities later withdrew those charges and widened the scope of the investigation, which now includes outside contractors and vendors.
New details about the investigation are outlined in a 12-page arrest warrant request that police submitted to prosecutors in September. Although the case has evolved since then, the document reveals details about the audacity of the alleged thefts.
Police say Thomas Hutchison, a former UMC facilities director, and Chris Roth, a former associate administrator, stole various items from the hospital and enlisted UMC employees to work on private projects while on county time.
Roth’s attorney disputed the allegations. Hutchison’s attorney did not return the Sun’s calls.
The arrest warrant request obtained by the Sun says that when police searched Hutchison’s Henderson home in March 2007, they found a toilet in his bathroom and a water softener and water heater in his garage that had all been ordered by UMC. Detectives also found countertops in his kitchen, bathrooms and a second-floor room that matched countertops witnesses saw being constructed by Sime Perkov, a UMC carpenter, while on the clock at the hospital, the document says.
A key witness in the investigation, former hospital employee Steve Jones, provided detectives with a photograph he snapped at UMC’s loading docks one Saturday morning in 2005. The photo shows a dark-haired male, identified by Jones as Perkov, loading a wooden cabinet into a Ford pickup truck, the document says. Police found similar cabinets at Hutchison’s home, the document adds.
As police searched Hutchison’s home, a detective questioned him about an air compressor in his garage. Hutchison acknowledged the compressor belonged to UMC, but said he had been borrowing it for the past year. Police checked UMC’s tool checkout log and found no entries for Hutchison.
Police also found receipts at Hutchison’s home that showed a pattern in which Hutchison returned UMC-purchased items to a Lowe’s home-improvement store and had the money put on gift cards to purchase items for his house, the document says.
Some witnesses said they saw Hutchison use his own money to pay for items he purchased through UMC for his home. Police suspect he did this to take advantage of UMC’s purchasing power and tax-exempt status.
Hutchison and Roth also enlisted UMC employees to fashion signs for two of Roth’s businesses, Pool Sharks and the Air Conditioning Technical Institute, the document says.
A UMC employee told police he made a sign for a building on Hutchison’s property. The sign was intended to deter theft. According to the document, it read: “This building is monitored by a central alarm and reported to the Henderson Police Department.”
Perkov and Peter Panagos, a UMC facilities worker, also constructed air-conditioning units for Roth’s air-conditioning school while on the hospital’s time, the document says.
Along the way, Perkov and Panagos raked in massive amounts of overtime pay. From 2002 to 2006, Perkov received $161,658 in overtime, according to the document. In 2006, he earned more in overtime ($65,052) than in base pay ($61,314). Panagos received $179,213 in overtime from 2002 to 2006, the document says.
Hutchison, Roth, Perkov and Panagos have resigned or been fired from the hospital. UMC officials also say they have made storage areas more secure, installed surveillance cameras in and around the stockroom and now require additional documentation when materials are removed from the stockroom.
The large amount of overtime pay raises the question why top UMC administrators didn’t suspect something untoward in the facilities department.
“Regarding the overtime issue, there were red flags being sent — to the two guys also under investigation, Tom Hutchison and Chris Roth,” said Rick Plummer, a UMC spokesman. “We have new policies and procedures in place regarding the approval of overtime, which is being monitored by administration.”
Police have expanded their investigation to include several contractors at the hospital, including a plumbing company that received more than $2 million of work at the hospital without approval from county commissioners. Plummer said UMC has stopped using two companies that are subjects of the investigation.
Attorney Joseph Sciscento, who represents Perkov, called the allegations “unfounded.” He said Perkov didn’t own a truck like the one in the photo when the picture was allegedly taken. The police, however, say DMV records show otherwise. Sciscento also said Perkov sometimes used his personal vehicle to transport goods to UMC Quick Care locations.
Attorney John Spilotro, who represents Roth, said the accusations are full of “supposition.” He said one allegation — that Roth stole a pair of patio heaters from the hospital — is false and that witnesses can testify they saw the heaters in Roth’s back yard before UMC bought its heaters.
As for the signs allegedly made for Roth’s companies, Spilotro said many employees used UMC resources to make signs. Some “even made bumper stickers for their cars,” he said.
Panagos’ attorney did not return phone calls from the Sun.
Sun reporter Brian Eckhouse contributed to this story.