NEWS BRIEFS for Monday, Sept. 28, 2020

Hospital receives insurance payment for ransomware attack

GILLETTE (WNE) — Campbell County Health has received an insurance settlement almost a year after a ransomware attack crippled its computer systems and disrupted its operations for months.

After a series of negotiations with multiple insurance companies, CCH has recouped $1 million as part of its insurance settlement, which officials hope marks an end to the cyber incident and fallout that dragged on throughout the past year.

“We obviously continue to look at our systems, but with the payments from the insurance companies we are closing the chapter,” said CCH Chief Financial Officer Mary Lou Tate.

Last September, the ransomware attack shut down more than 1,500 computers and servers at Campbell County Memorial Hospital and the Legacy Living and Rehabilitation Center.

It took the hospital until December to fully recover its technology infrastructure and return its operations to normal.

Initially, Tate expected an insurance settlement in the neighborhood of $1.5 million, which she said is about how much the attack cost CCH. But after negotiations with the hospital’s three insurers, she realized that number would likely not be reached.

A ransomware attack involves an outside party attaching malicious software to a computer system that locks it up and demands payment in order to receive a key to unlock and restore the system.


Woman pleads not guilty in $363,000 embezzlement

RIVERTON (WNE) — Charged with the largest embezzlement in the county in eight years, Laura Burleson pleaded “not guilty” Sept. 23 in Fremont County District Court. 

District Court

Judge Jason Conder decided at the arraignment hearing that Burleson – also known as Laura Veach or Laura Logan – no longer has to wear an ankle monitor while out on bond, especially because she is roughly nine months pregnant. 

Burleson stands accused of four separate felonies, each punishable by up to 10 years in prison and $10,000 in fines – for a total possible 40 years and $40,000 if she is convicted. 

A forensic accounting process and tracking of checks, payments and accounts for M&M Well Service has led authorities to believe that Burleson stole $363,769 from the minerals company, which was formerly her employer. 

“This would actually be 26 felonies if the state wished to charge it as such,” noted Fremont County Attorney deputy Seth Griswold, who is prosecuting the case. “It’s overwhelming – we have a paper trail for everything, and showing that every check was written by her, signed by her.” 

The embezzlements with which she is charged are reported to have started in November of 2014, with the last one dating to February 2018. 


LCCC reports 18 recoveries out of 24 COVID cases

CHEYENNE (WNE) — Since the start of its semester about a month ago, Laramie County Community College has seen 24 positive cases of COVID-19 among its students, with only a quarter of those cases still considered active as of Friday.

Last week, LCCC reported six active cases among its students, with two of those coming from its Albany County campus. Sixteen students are also currently in a two-week quarantine due to exposure to a positive case, according to LCCC’s new online COVID-19 dashboard.

“The vast majority of our positive COVID cases are from our residence halls,” LCCC Dean of Students James Miller said Friday. “Luckily for us, we’ve done a pretty good job of identifying and then helping county health officials to contact trace those individuals who might have been affected.”

LCCC started its semester last month with mostly online instruction and limited in-person instruction for some vocational and health-related courses, and the college has conducted two rounds of comprehensive testing of its students in residence halls since then.

Everyone who comes on campus must wear masks and adhere to social distancing protocols outlined by the college, and Miller said he feels the LCCC reopening plan has been effective.

“I’ve actually been very pleased with how our student body and faculty and staff have responded to wearing masks,” Miller said. “I know they’re not the most comfortable thing to do, but they’ve really responded well in making sure when they can’t social distance, they’re wearing masks.”


Man pleads guilty in stabbing of wife

GILLETTE (WNE) — The man accused of stabbing his estranged wife in the neck Oct. 3 has pleaded guilty to attempted manslaughter, which had been reduced from attempted second-degree murder.

The plea deal was reached just two business days before Joseph Cruzen, 30, was scheduled for a seven-day trial in District Court.

In the plea agreement, Cruzen also pleaded guilty to felonious restraint, which had been reduced from kidnapping. Two misdemeanor counts of interfering with an emergency call and domestic assault were dismissed.

Doctors who treated the woman said she was lucky to be alive because of the critical organs that the knife narrowly missed, like the jugular vein and carotid artery, according to earlier court testimony.

She had agreed to meet Cruzen at his home because he wanted to talk. 

He also wanted sex and she refused, spurring a verbal argument that turned physical after she tried to leave and he blocked her way, investigators said at a preliminary hearing.

At one point, he grabbed her neck and threw her to the ground, where he got on top of her and held her with one hand around the neck. She was able to struggle to get free when he pulled a pocketknife from his pocket and cut his left arm, making suicidal statements.

She was able to calm him down, and again tried to leave when he grabbed the knife again and stabbed her in the neck, according to court testimony.

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Dec. 2.


Rawlins schools decide against electric bus

RAWLINS (WNE) — After some discussion, Carbon County School District 1 decided against purchasing the first electric-powered school bus in Wyoming.

The cost of the bus is $385,710, with $124,752 that would have been reimbursed by the state of Wyoming over a five-year period. The majority of the funds would have been paid through the Volkswagen grant, leaving the school only out of pocket for $248 for the bus.

The cost for the purchase and installation of a charging station for the bus would have amounted to $24,859.50, which the district would have funded.

The bus was planned to be used for in-city routes and would have replaced a bus the district currently is using. The bus wouldn’t have been used in the district until sometime in 2022.

One board member questioned the reasoning behind purchasing an electric bus, something that isn’t new to the region. It was clarified that although the state has seen other electric city buses, Carbon County would purchase the first electric school bus.

Ultimately, the board was divided on the bus situation: some wanted to go ahead with the purchase, but others felt that buying a $400,000 bus after Gov. Mark Gordon has called on numerous budget cuts across various state departments seemed inappropriate for this time.