Former Berchtold salesman Michael Ward apologized to his family and the government Monday in U.S. District Court before being sentenced to a year in federal prison for writing phony invoices in an alleged price-gouging scheme targeting an Army hospital, authorities said.
Ward, a Texas resident who worked for Berchtold Corp. until March 2012, pleaded guilty in January to writing false documents. He faced up to five years on the charge but will spend a year behind bars, plus an additional two years under supervised release, officials said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Rhett DeHart, who prosecuted the case, said he was pleased with the sentence, having deferred to whatever the court deemed suitable.
"He had no prior record and he pled guilty," DeHard said. "It's not like this guy is a hardened criminal. I hope the sentence sends a deterrent effect."
Questions regarding Ward's handling of sales surfaced after former Berchtold employee Beth Gorawski filed a federal whistleblower complaint in September 2011 alleging the Hanahan Road business overcharged the government by nearly $736,000 on a $2.4 million sale of medical equipment to Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas.
She's also suing Berchtold for wrongful termination in a separate case.
Prosecutors have stated that Ward twice created false documents in October 2010.
In the first instance, he fabricated an invoice stating that Berchtold had sold surgical equipment to Kaiser Hospital Asset Management at inflated prices, according to an indictment.
In the other case, he falsely certified in a written price quote that the rates he was offering were the lowest available for favored customers when he knew they were "far in excess of the best pricing that Berchtold ... was required to provide the United States Government for such goods."
Ward apologized to his family and the government for his actions while in court Monday, DeHart said.
"He said he didn't, at the time, realize how serious what he did was," DeHart said.
According to DeHart, Berchtold recently agreed to a $3.6 million settlement to be paid to the federal government, squelching any desire for monetary restitution in Ward's case. Gorawski was awarded a $867,189 whistleblower payment from the government as a result of the settlement. The figure represented 20 percent of both the $3.6 million settlement and the nearly $736,000 in excess charges.
Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908 or at Twitter.com/celmorePC.
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