Investigative Reports

Corporate connections questioned

CODY — A plan to expand and modernize West Park Hospital has spurred some to ask questions about the company contracted to manage the facility and whether trustees are fully aware of the corporate connections that affect health care costs.

Supporters of the project have praised members of the hospital’s volunteer board of trustees for developing what they say is a sensible plan for expansion to address significant needs, including a crowded emergency room that lacks privacy.

While the nonprofit hospital’s ER needs improvements, some of the other proposed changes appear more likely to benefit the for-profit company that manages it than to help rein in spiraling health care costs, said Serge “Pete” Joskow.

Aug. 14, 2010: Corporate connections questioned
Aug. 14, 2010: Patients, staff in Cody urge hospital upgrades
Aug. 14, 2010: Critics take on Cody hospital plan


Safety record in question at Mount Carmel Youth Ranch

CLARK, Wyo. – Along the well-traveled highway between Cody and Billings, a wooden sign at a gravel turnoff pointing east into starkly beautiful high desert says “Mount Carmel Youth Ranch 3 miles.”

Few take the turnoff, and indeed few people know much about the youth ranch and what it does.

What most people may know about Mount Carmel Youth Ranch comes from news stories about an assault in September 2005 in which three boys used shovels to brutally beat a sleeping counselor.

That incident – in which John O’Brien, just nine days on the job, suffered severe, permanent head injuries – was neither the first nor the last serious occurrence at the ranch.

A review of dozens of public documents shows a history of problems over the past several years, including multiple failures to report some incidents to the state Department of Family Services, as required by agency rules.

And an examination of tax documents filed for Mount Carmel raises questions about its interlocked profit-making and nonprofit operations.

Sept. 29, 2007: Safety record in question at Mount Carmel Youth Ranch
Sept. 29, 2007: Tax records raise questions about youth ranch
Sept. 29, 2007: Oversight relies on self-reporting
Sept. 29, 2007: Mount Carmel has struggled to keep staffers and strike educational balance
Sept. 29, 2007: Reports detail ranch’s incidents
Sept. 29, 2007: Timeline of Mount Carmel Youth Ranch incidents
Sept. 29, 2007: Parents praise ranch for ‘saving’ boys

Oct. 6, 2007: Letter: Wyoming youth ranch ought to be investigated
Oct. 13, 2007: Letter: Mount Carmel working well for troubled son

More at Additional stories documenting problems at youth ranch, including:

November 2007:
Boys, van returned to youth ranch
No measures pending over youth ranch runaways
Illness that hit ranch likely a common one

December 2007:
Two more boys steal van, flee Mount Carmel

March 2010:
Mount Carmel didn’t fulfill promises to son, mother says


Blowout prompting closer look at Windsor Energy

CLARK, Wyo. – Many Clark residents say last week’s gas-well blowout was the kind of incident they have long said state and county health and safety agencies were ill-prepared to handle.

They point to two previous spills and an illegal dumping of drilling fluids in outlining a history of problems with Windsor Energy, the company managing gas exploration around Clark.

Windsor chief operating officer Jeff Dahlberg has said the incidents were unrelated. And some Clark residents have praised the company for doing its best to make things right.

But with energy prices continuing to rise, and with Windsor on track to expand operations in the Bighorn Basin and elsewhere, residents and some state and federal regulators are taking a closer look at the company.

Aug. 20, 2006: Blowout prompting closer look at Windsor Energy

More at Additional stories tracking blowout cleanup, including:
Aug. 22, 2006: Rig employee’s arrest causes concern in Clark
Latest update: June 22, 2010: DEQ seeks comments on Clark cleanup


APF head Hilton has history of legal trouble

Michael Hilton of American Police Force arrived in Hardin with promises of Mercedes police cars and expertise in operating prisons. He delivered the cars last week, but may have learned about prisons following a 1993 conviction for grand theft.

Public records from police and state and federal courts in California show that Michael Anthony Hilton, using that name and more than a dozen aliases over several years, is cited in multiple criminal, civil and bankruptcy cases, and was sentenced in 1993 to two years in state prison in California.

Hilton pleaded guilty in March 1993 to 14 felonies, including 10 counts of grand theft, one count of attempted grand theft and three counts of diversion of construction funds, according to Orange County court records. He was sentenced to two years in prison, but it is unclear how much time he served.

Court records in that case list his real name as Michael Hilton, but they also include the aliases Midrag Ilia Dokovitch, Midrag Ilia Dokovich and Michael Miodrag.

Sept. 30, 2009: APF head Hilton has history of legal trouble

Oct. 18, 2009: Bond default could hinder future projects
Oct. 29, 2009: Hilton faces arrest in California
Oct. 30, 2009: Hilton claims no assets
Nov. 30, 2009: Michael Hilton’s forfeited paintings for sale on Ebay


Kangarloo’s businesses see ups, downs after flight from Iran

In his hometown of Mashad, Iran, real estate developer Hassan Kangarloo grew up in a family he describes as “very wealthy and famous,” thanks to his late father’s success in business and politics.

But the Iranian Revolution of 1979 toppled Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Iran’s shah, or monarch. Fearing retribution for their ties to the shah, Kangarloo and his family fled the country, leaving behind what he said was a fortune in assets, including commercial aircraft and real estate.

Since moving to the United States around 1980 while in his early 20s, Kangarloo, now 49, has worked to restore the family fortune, meeting with mixed success along the way.

Much of his story – including his financial troubles and a criminal conviction in 1986 for selling restricted military parts to Iran’s government under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini – is detailed by Kangarloo in his own words in court documents.

Jan. 21, 2008: Kangarloo’s businesses see ups, downs after flight from Iran
Jan. 21, 2008: Many developer’s efforts fall short of his dreams


Investigation reveals last days of troubled soldier

CODY, Wyo. – Lovell police and a U.S. Army sergeant worked unsuccessfully last year to persuade a suicidal soldier to return to his base in North Carolina, fearing that he might harm himself or others. One week later, the soldier killed his estranged wife and himself.

Recordings of telephone conversations between police and Army personnel, along with a separate report by the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division, offer some insight into the circumstances leading up to the fatal encounter.

They also show that drugs and alcohol may have played a role Nov. 5 when Sgt. Steven D. Lopez, 23, shot Brenda Lee Davila, 22, three times before turning the gun on himself outside Davila’s Carmon Avenue residence in Lovell.

The records show that Sgt. 1st Class Clinton Ham, Lopez’s supervisor at Fort Bragg, and Lovell Police Officer Robert Bifano struggled to convince Lopez and his family that they were more concerned for Lopez’s safety than his status as absent without official leave from the Army.

Aug. 14, 2008: Investigation reveals last days of troubled soldier

ALSO: Nov. 5, 2009: Victim’s family sues, says town’s inaction led to Lovell killing


ProDril execs end up indicted; Particle Drilling moves on

Cody, Wyo. — On Oct. 3, Particle Drilling Technologies Inc. CEO John Schiller stood before the Nasdaq stock exchange in New York to ring the closing bell and celebrate his company’s recent listing on the market.

Three days earlier in U.S. District Court in Cheyenne, four former executives from defunct Cody company ProDril Services Inc. were arraigned on charges related to the alleged improper sale of unregistered company stock.

The two companies had worked to develop promising, new drilling technology for use in energy exploration.

But many in Park County are wondering how one company became the toast of the Nasdaq and achieved a market capitalization of nearly $110 million, while the other closed its doors on Big Horn Avenue and left investors scrambling for answers.

Oct. 15, 2005: ProDril execs end up indicted; Particle Drilling moves on
Oct. 15, 2005: Still no ProDril answers

Sept. 2, 2006: Curlett has ties to firm setting up in Powell
Sept. 2, 2006: ProDril founder defends company
June 11, 2009: ProDril successor lands in bankruptcy protection

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