Former Loretto Hospital exec charged with embezzlement

A former high-level executive at Loretto Hospital has been hit with federal charges alleging she helped embezzle nearly half a million dollars from the small safety-net facility on Chicago’s West Side at the height of the COVID-19 crisis.

Heather Bergdahl, 37, who currently lives in the Houston area, was charged in a criminal complaint made public Monday with embezzlement from a federally funded program.

Bergdahl was arrested on Thursday night shortly before a scheduled flight to Dubai. She’s scheduled to have a detention hearing in U.S. District Court in Houston on Monday, court records show. An attorney for her was not listed on the docket.

The charges are the first to stem from an ongoing federal grand jury investigation into Loretto Hospital’s vaccination program, which came under fire after hundreds of COVID shots were administered at a suburban church connected to then-CEO George Miller at a time where vaccination doses were still scarce.

Around the same time, Loretto’s board reprimanded Miller and the hospital’s former chief financial officer, Dr. Anosh Ahmed, after the hospital improperly vaccinated ineligible workers at Trump Tower downtown and Cook County judges.

Ahmed resigned in 2021 after the hospital’s board voted to terminate him. Miller was suspended and later left the hospital amid the fallout in April 2022. Neither Ahmed nor Miller has been criminally charged, though the investigation is ongoing.

According to the 20-page criminal complaint, Ahmed knew Bergdahl from their time working together in Houston and hired her in 2020 to serve as the hospital’s chief transformation officer, with duties that included cutting checks to vendors and “handling outreach for screening and COVID-19 testing and vaccines.”

Though Ahmed was referred to in the complaint only as Individual A, details of his employment history confirm his identity.

In June 2021, just a few months after resigning, Ahmed opened four business bank accounts under the names Medlabs USA, Chicago Promotions Ltd., Illinois Biotech Co., and Midwest Medical Supplies, all listing himself as CEO and an address on the 400 block of North Wabash Avenue, where he lived at the time, the complaint stated.

On the same day the accounts were opened, Bergdahl began cutting checks to Ahmed’s companies even though they had performed no work for the hospital. Over the next six months, Bergdahl issued a total of 11 checks totaling $486,000, the complaint alleged.

Records show that Ahmed’s companies, in turn, were sending tens of thousands of dollars back to Bergdahl, including a payment of $79,000 on July 26, 2021, two payments, $75,000 and $10,000, on Aug. 18, 2021,
a payment of $81,000 on Sept. 23, 2021, and a payment of $25,000 on Jan. 10, 2022, the complaint alleged.

Bergdahl left Loretto in March 2022, shortly before Miller’s resignation, records show.

Her LinkedIn profile currently lists her as chief financial officer of Anosh Inc., a Houston-based alternative investment firm. Her biography states she is “a doctor, coffee connoisseur, automotive enthusiast, business woman, and world traveler,” and that her previous work experience includes “fraud investigation.”

“She has relocated 8 times, traveled the world and seen places and things that many people only dream of,” the bio states. “She lives her life embracing the belief, ‘the best is yet to come!’”

The charges against Bergdahl come two years after a federal grand jury subpoenaed the state Department of Public Health for information on dozens of people who were given shots by Loretto — the same time frame as the vaccinations given at Trump Tower and elsewhere, according to records released by the state.

That investigation later expanded to include Valley Kingdom Ministries International Church in Oak Forest where hundreds of congregants were allegedly vaccinated while shots were still in short supply and only supposed to be given to people ages 65 and older and front-line workers.

The vaccination event also occurred as health and community leaders emphasized a need to distribute vaccines equitably, making sure hard-hit communities on the South and West sides got the shots.

The Chicago Department of Public Health at the time said it suspended vaccination distribution to Loretto after learning of potential vaccine distribution issues. The city later stepped in to manage the clinic at the hospital in order to help ensure Austin residents had priority access to vaccinations.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker and then-Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the city and state are cooperating with investigators.

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