Ex-Loretto Hospital Official Charged in $500K Embezzlement Scheme During COVID-19 Pandemic

The nonprofit Loretto Hospital in Austin. (WTTW News)The nonprofit Loretto Hospital in Austin. (WTTW News)

A former executive of Loretto Hospital, the West Side medical facility that came under fire during the pandemic for allegedly offering still-rare COVID-19 vaccines to select VIPs, has been charged with embezzling nearly $500,000.

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Heather Bergdahl, 37, is facing federal charges after she allegedly worked with a doctor to steal from Loretto by writing hospital checks to businesses the doctor purported to own. But prosecutors allege those were not legitimate businesses and never provided the hospital with goods or services.

According to the Chicago Tribune — which first reported Bergdahl’s charges — the case stems from an ongoing federal investigation into Loretto Hospital’s vaccination program following the discovery of alleged improper vaccinations of people connected to the hospital’s COO Dr. Anosh Ahmed and CEO George Miller.

Neither Ahmed nor Miller have been criminally charged.

According to Bergdahl’s criminal complaint, she was hired in February 2020 as the hospital’s chief transformation officer, a role in which she handled outreach for screening and COVID-19 testing and vaccines.

She also allegedly supervised accounts payable, which required her to review and approve invoices and bills for payment; process credit card payments and handle checks for payment for goods and services.

In June 2021, a doctor — who had recently left Loretto and was not named in the complaint — opened bank accounts for four purported businesses which each included the doctor’s name as CEO and their home address as the businesses’ location, the complaint states.

When they worked at Loretto, they hired Bergdahl and appeared to have a previous personal relationship with her, according to the complaint.

The same day those bank accounts were opened, Bergdahl allegedly began writing checks from the hospital made payable to the purported businesses.

Four checks written in the subsequent days totaled $314,888.96, according to the complaint, and by November 2021, Bergdahl had allegedly written 11 hospital checks made payable to the businesses for a total of approximately $486,540.

Prosecutors alleged that based on a search of hospital records and interviews with another individual who worked at Loretto during this time, the hospital had “no records, orders, invoices, bills, delivery receipts, or correspondence documenting receipt” to show it had received any actual goods or services from those businesses.

While the alleged embezzlement was going on, the doctor allegedly paid Bergdahl substantial sums on an almost monthly basis from a bank account tied to one of the purported businesses.

According to the complaint, this included payments of $40,560 on May 26, 2021; $75,000 on June 16, 2021; $13,000 on July 6, 2021; $79,000 on July 26, 2021; two payments totaling $85,000 on August 18, 2021; $81,000 on Sept. 23, 2021; and a payment of $25,000 on Jan. 10, 2022.

Court records show Bergdahl was arrested in Houston, where she now resides. The Chicago Tribune reported Bergdahl was taken into custody last Thursday after she boarded a private jet set to take her to Dubai.

She appeared in a Texas courtroom Monday, where a judge set her bond at $486,000.

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