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|Brunton charged in Medical Center theft|
A former financial officer at Franklin Medical Center has been arrested and jailed on charges of felony theft and extortion.
Sheriff Steve Pylant said Michael Patrick Brunton, 38, was arrested on Wednesday, May 2, and released Friday after posting bond of $105,000.
"Brunton has also been convicted on a mail fraud charge in federal court in Oklahoma," Pylant said. "He served more than a year in federal prison and is currently on federal probation."
Brunton just recently resigned his position as the medical center's chief financial officer for what hospital officials described as "personal reasons."
Pylant said Brunton was charged with felony theft in connection with the purchases of a number of items that were paid for with hospital credit cards.
"Brunton headed the hospital's Relay for Life team," Pylant said, "and he apparently bought some things he said were to be auctioned off to raise money for Relay for Life, but some of those items were not auctioned. Instead, they were given away by Brunton as gifts."
At least one nurse employed at FMC was among those receiving gifts from Brunton.
Among the items that were listed to be sold by silent auction at the hospital's inaugural charity ball on April 20 were Alabama-LSU football tickets, NFL tickets, NASCAR tickets, tickets to concerts in Dallas and Oklahoma City, and airline tickets.
FMC Chief Executive Officer Leon Belila said Monday that he couldn't comment on the specifics of the case.
"This is an on-going criminal investigation," Belila said, "and it wouldn't be appropriate for me to comment."
But Belila did say that hospital officials made the initial contact with law enforcement authorities.
Brunton resigned on Friday, April 27.
"Following his resignation," Belila said, "certain personal transaction irregularities were noted. Following an internal investigation, the matter was turned over to proper authorities."
Pylant said the extortion charge was filed in connection with some e-mail correspondence between Brunton and hospital officials.
"After Brunton resigned, there was some discussion regarding his severance pay," Pylant said. "In the e-mail exchange, Brunton threatened to expose some alleged irregular activities at the hospital if he didn't get paid."
In 2005, Brunton was sentenced to serve 16 months in federal prison.
He began serving his sentence on Sept. 27, 2005 and was released from prison on Nov. 15, 2006.
One month later, in December, 2006, he was hired as chief financial official at Franklin Medical Center.
Belila said he didn't know about Brunton's federal conviction when he hired him.
"His resume was impressive," Belila said, "and all background/sanction checks returned without incident."
According to information contained in Brunton's appeal of his sentence to the Tenth Circuit, United States Court of Appeals, Brunton was originally "indicted on 12 counts of mail and wire fraud after being caught running an on-line auction scheme whereby he would offer up certain items for sale (e.g., football tickets, Rolex watches), accept payment from the winning bidder, but not remit any item in return."
Brunton first attracted the notice of criminal investigators in 2002, the appeal stated.
Investigators ultimately identified 40 victims of the fraud and counted actual losses from fraud at $72,758.91.
The government eventually dropped all charges except for one count of mail fraud.
Brunton then pleaded guilty and "promised not to appeal his sentence or how it was determined."
His subsequent appeal in federal court was dismissed.
Pylant said he had been in contact with Brunton's federal probation officer.
"Federal authorities are aware that Brunton has been arrested here on a felony charge," Pylant said, adding that the investigation remains on-going.