A 15th former HealthSouth Corp. executive officially pleaded guilty to charges in the federal government's investigation of $2.7 billion in alleged accounting fraud at the company. Catherine Fowler, 36, former vice president of treasury and cash manager at HealthSouth, Birmingham, Ala., pleaded guilty to conspiracy to deceive auditors and maintain false books and records. Fowler faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. So far, the government has charged 16 people in the case, including company founder and former CEO Richard Scrushy. In addition, federal investigators also have begun investigating a $45 million loan made by HealthSouth in 2001 to a company run by former HealthSouth CFO Michael Martin. According to newspaper reports, the $20 million loan, with a $25.5 million extended credited line, was not disclosed to HealthSouth's board or to regulators and was used to purchase four hospitals from HealthSouth. At deadline, HealthSouth officials could not be reached for comment. In another development, HealthSouth said it will begin "town hall"-style broadcasts to update employees on recent developments at the company. -- by Julie Piotrowski
15th HealthSouth exec pleads guilty in fraud case
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