The attorney for a former Manchester hospital executive accused of misappropriating more than $100,000 is arguing that the vast majority of his client’s alleged crimes occurred too long ago for prosecution.
Attorney Mark Liabo recently filed a motion to dismiss charges against Lonnie D. Butikofer, 61, of Manchester. Butikofer faces charges of first-degree theft and first-degree fraudulent practices, both felonies that carry maximum sentences of 10 years in prison upon conviction.
Charges were filed in June in Iowa District Court for Delaware County. Earlier this month, Butikofer entered a plea of not guilty.
According to court documents, employees at Regional Medical Center, where Butikofer was employed as CEO, identified some “inappropriate emails” in February 2017. The ensuing investigation led officials to “question the defendant’s work status on various dates and times.”
The investigation was turned over to the Iowa state auditor’s office. The agency ultimately determined that Butikofer and another employee, Michael D. Briggs, 53, of Manchester, had accumulated $256,675.52 in expenses “not found to be on RMC business,” according to court documents.
Most of the improper disbursements were tied to Butikofer, who was paid more than $143,000 for time spent on personal trips.
Liabo, however, argued that the bulk of the alleged thefts — which date back to January 2009 — occurred more than three years ago, putting them outside the statute of limitations.
He wrote that anything that occurred more than three years before Aug. 6 — the date trial information was filed — cannot be prosecuted. Accordingly, Liabo argued that Butikofer only could be charged with stealing just more than $3,500.
“If aggregated, these amounts total $3,529.48, making the alleged crimes second-degree theft ... and second-degree fraudulent practices (under Iowa Code),” Liabo wrote.
The lesser charges, while still felonies, only would be punishable by a maximum of five years in prison upon conviction.
Liabo did not return a phone message seeking comment for this story.
County Attorney John Bernau filed a resistance to Liabo’s motion. It stated that the motion “fails to meet the requirement for dismissing indictments” and argued the motion “should be overruled.”
A hearing on the motion to dismiss is set for Oct. 1.
Briggs has pleaded not guilty to a charge of first-degree theft in his related case.