The former administrator of the Pettis County Ambulance District pleaded guilty in federal court on Thursday (Dec 14) to embezzling more than $227,000 from the district.

According to a press release from Tom Larson, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of MO, 62-year old Michael Paul Gardner, of Sedalia, waived his right to a grand jury and pleaded guilty to federal information that charges him with one count of bank fraud.

By pleading guilty,  Gardner admitted that he forged board members’ signatures on 44 checks totaling $123,721. Gardner also admitted that he received $103,928 in unapproved payroll expenses from 2015 to 2017. The total amount embezzled by Gardner from the ambulance district was $227,649, according to the press release.

Gardner was arrested in late-March 2017. Two board members of the ambulance district went to the Sedalia Police Department on March 24, to present suspicious checks and financial transactions made by Gardner. The board had been notified by Central Bank of Sedalia that there was suspicious activity being conducted on the district’s bank accounts. The board members presented several ambulance district checks to police investigators in which Gardner was the payee and upon which the signatures of two board members had been forged. Board members also presented several checks made out to another person, identified in court documents as “T.R.,” which also contained forged board members’ signatures.

The press release indicates Gardner admitted to investigators that he had been forging board members’ signatures on checks payable to himself or to T.R., then depositing them into either his or her personal bank accounts, for about a year. Gardner was hired as the PCAD administrator in December 2012.

The ambulance district employed an independent auditing firm to conduct an intensive fraud investigations to determine the amount of funds misappropriated by Gardner. The firm identified 44 forged checks totaling $123,721.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, it will be recommended to the court that Gardner be sentenced to 2-years in federal prison without parole. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a pre-sentence investigation by the United States Probation Office. No further information was available in the press release.

Gardner - Pettis County