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Miller Pleads Not Guilty, Requests Jury Trial

Aug. 28, 2008 — Rodney E. Miller Sr. pleaded not guilty to charges of defrauding the V.I. government and asked for a jury trial at his arraignment hearing Thursday morning before V.I. Superior Court Judge Brenda Hollar.
The former Schneider Regional Medical Center president and chief executive officer sat solemnly between his attorneys — William J. Glore of Dudley, Clark and Chang, and Charles J. Grant of Grant and Lebowitz, of Philadelphia, Penn. — and his wife, Veronica, as Hollar processed more than two dozen arraignments before calling on him.
Miller was arrested Aug. 22 on St. Thomas when special agents from the V.I. Department of Justice's white-collar crime division apprehended Miller in his attorneys' office.
Miller, who had already posted $75,000 bail, appeared later that day in the courtroom of V.I. Superior Court Judge James Carroll III, where he had been summoned — along with SRMC Chief Operating Officer Peter Najawicz — to challenge a court-ordered freeze of his assets.
Justice officials charge that Miller tried to cover up a 1996 criminal conviction by providing false statements to the government on his employment application at SRMC. Although he claimed on his application that he received an honorable discharge, Justice officials said, Miller actually received a dishonorable discharge from the U.S. Navy after pleading guilty to nine counts of larceny and one count each of attempted larceny and obstruction of justice for a fraud and cover-up scheme.
Conviction on a charge of defrauding the government carries a maximum penalty of a $500 fine and two years in prison.
Carroll imposed conditions of Miller's bail, including regular visits to probation officers in Weston, Fla., where he lives, and on St. Thomas. Assistant Attorney General Denise George-Counts stressed that strict conditions be applied because, she said, "Additional charges will be filed of a more serious nature."
Those charges have not yet been made public.
Hollar gave the attorneys the following dates to file documents: Sept. 11 date for discoveries; Sept. 18 for all motions; Sept. 25 for responses to motions; Sept. 29. for plea bargains; and Oct. 3 to hear pleas in the courtroom of V.I. Superior Court Judge Leon Kendall. No trial date has been set.
Miller's arrest came soon after an audit report by the offices of the Inspectors General of the Department of the Interior and the Virgin Islands claimed extensive financial mismanagement at the medical center. (See "Audit Claims Widespread Abuse of Schneider Hospital Funds.") He left Schneider to assume the post of chief operating officer of Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, Fla. last December.
Frank Sacco, president and chief executive officer of Memorial Regional Health Care System, said Thursday he was "baffled" by the news of Miller's troubles.
Sacco said he had never regretted hiring Miller until stories from the Virgin Islands showed up in July. The 36-year-old Miller abruptly resigned his post in Florida July 30, shortly after the news of his alleged wrongdoing became public.
"It still baffles me," Sacco said. "That somebody with his talent and drive could have done what it's said he did. After the Navy, he propelled his career forward so well, he got his degrees. You look at how he built himself up. It's hard to believe."
Sacco said that Miller had wanted the position of CEO of the health care system. However, he said, "We didn't think he was ready for that yet. We made him chief operating officer of the Hollywood hospital, reporting to the senior vice president. We figured he would need about two or three years."
Miller was named one of the "Top 25 Minority Executives in Health Care" by Modern Healthcare magazine in 2006. Previously, he was named by Ebony magazine as one of its 30 leaders of the future and as Health Care Executive of the Year 2002 by the National Association of Health Services Executives.
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