Five years later, federal officials appear set on getting the same results, even upping the ante by indicting not only Dupont's stepdaughter, but his wife...only this time things are not going to work the same way.
"I'm going to fight this," Dupont said. "These charges are wrong."
Dupont was indicted in September on fraud charges, with the government claiming he was illegally hiding his ownership and operation of the Anderson Guest House, as well as facilities in Joplin and Carl Junction. The Turner Report was the first to reveal, in an April 14 post, that Dupont, his wife Laverne, and stepdaughter Kelley Wheeler were indicted for health care fraud and money laundering.
The charges, Dupont claims, are politically motivated, coming only a few months after 11 were killed in a November 2006 fire at the Anderson Guest House.
"It's time to get this right," Dupont said. The biggest obstacle standing in Dupont's way is his 2003 guilty plea, a guilty plea he says came under duress as federal prosecutors threatened to send his stepdaughter and codefendant, Ms. Wheeler, to prison if Dupont did not change his plea.
"They said if I did not plead guilty, they would send her to prison for five years." Dupont and his lawyer thought they had worked out a deal in which Dupont would plead guilty and his stepdaughter would not receive any prison time.
It was not long before Dupont says he discovered that the government was not going to hold up its end of the deal...and nothing had ever been put in writing. One of the two charges against Ms. Wheeler was dropped, but she ended up spending six months in prison on the other.
On Feb. 21, 2003, Dupont was sentenced to 21 months in prison. Dupont appealed his conviction, saying the government had reneged on the deal, and he had received ineffective assistance from his lawyer:
"(Dupont) believes that he had meritorious and adequate defenses to the charges, and waived said defenses and right to trial by his plea of guilty in order to effectively release his stepdaughter Kelley Liveoak. Defendant's counsel Richard Fredman believed that all of the charges would be dropped against Kelley Liveoak upon (Dupont's) plea as per a letter received by (Dupont) following his plea and so advised (Dupont) prior to the entry of his plea."
In the motion, Dupont said his lawyer's failure to enforce the agreement, or to even review the written agreement "constitutes ineffective assistance of counsel."
The appellate court rejected Dupont's motion, noting that there was no evidence of an agreement in the written record, and also noting that Dupont signed documents indicating he had not been coerced into the plea.
So Dupont's guilty plea on a charge of defrauding the government through use of Sandhill, Inc., and Sterling Home Health Care, companies he allegedly owned, stayed on the books...even though an FBI agent had testified before the guilty plea was entered that Dupont did not own Sandhill or Sterling Home Health Care during the times in which the crimes were allegedly committed.
According to a trial transcript, FBI agent Janet Butkus said, "There was a sale, a parting of the ways between the owners of Sterling Home Health Care, Inc., that being Robert Dupont and Karl Householder, who originally owned Sterling Home Health Care by themselves. Dupont and Householder, they decided to split about this time and part of Sterling Home Health Care, Inc. was sold to Karl and Julia, and they changed the name. And Robert Dupont kept part of Sterling Home Health Care, Inc. and took it with him when he moved out of the Joplin area. (Note: This was actually when Dupont made his move into the Joplin area.) If I might add, at that same time when he sold, when they made their split, originally Sandhill assisted in the Butler Guest House, Lamar Guest House and St. Louis Guest House. When they made their split, at that time, not only did Dupont sell part of Sterling, the home health agency, but he sold Butler Guest House and Lamar Guest House to Karl and Julia and he kept St. Louis Guest House for himself."
It was noted in the trial testimony that the doctors who had been involved in the scheme, had been billing patients through the Lamar and Butler Guest Houses, the ones owned by Householder at that time, according to Ms. Butkus, and not at the St. Louis Guest House, which remained under Dupont's ownership.
During the current case, the government is likely to note Dupont's guilty plea, as well as note that Dupont is Householder's brother-in-law, and indicate that those two facts show that Dupont has experience in trying to hide his connection to running businesses.
At this time, the next hearing in Dupont's case is not scheduled until December.