Jan 28, 2014 The Associated Press

No contest plea in driver's death

GILLETTE -- A 29-year-old man accused of hitting and killing a tow truck driver on Interstate 90 has pleaded no contest to aggravated vehicular homicide.

Justin Lynn Helsper entered his plea Monday in District Court in the November 2012 death of Larry Schofield, who was helping a stranded motorist on the side of the road when he was struck.

Helsper struck a plea deal with prosecutors, who will recommend a 14- to 18-year sentence.

Helsper says he was drinking at a Gillette bar before the crash, and his next memory was waking up in jail. Authorities say he did not stop after the crash and was arrested a short time later by the Wyoming Highway Patrol.

A sentencing date has not been set.

Hospital cheat gets 10 years

CHEYENNE -- A former administrator who pleaded guilty to defrauding hospitals in Wyoming and Indiana must serve more than 10 years in prison, a federal judge ordered Monday.

U.S. District Judge Nancy Freudenthal sentenced Paul Cardwell to serve 121 months and pay restitution of nearly $1.7 million.

Cardwell pleaded guilty last year to two counts of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Prosecutors say Cardwell took nearly $850,000 from Powell Valley Healthcare in 2011 and took about the same amount between 2003 and 2009 from White County Memorial Hospital in Monticello, Ind.

Auditors discovered the scheme in 2011. Three weeks before his trial was set to start, Cardwell disappeared while free on bond in the summer of 2012. He was arrested in Thailand last June and extradited to the United States.

Prosecutors said that Cardwell defrauded both hospitals by funneling money to co-defendant Michael J. Plake of West Lafayette, Ind. Freudenthal last year sentenced co-defendant Plake to 30 months in prison.

Cardwell directed payments to a firm Plake established ostensibly to recruit medical personnel for the hospitals, prosecutors have said. They said the men didn't do any actual medical recruiting and that Plake kicked back the bulk of the money to Cardwell.

Bill would raise state minimum wage

CHEYENNE -- Two Democratic lawmakers from Cheyenne are sponsoring legislation that would raise Wyoming's minimum wage from $5.15 to $9 per hour.

State Sen. Floyd Esquibel says it's difficult for workers to earn a living on the current minimum wage. State Rep. James Byrd also is sponsoring the bill.

The federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour almost always is the rate paid in Wyoming because federal law trumps state law.An exception is the rare job that doesn't involve interstate trade.

The bill also would boost the minimum wage for tipped employees from $2.13 to $5 an hour.

Opponents of raising the minimum wage include the Wyoming Lodging and Restaurant Association. The group says higher labor costs could reduce job opportunities for restaurant workers.

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