Virtually anyone can take over a hospital – even fraudsters, career criminals and bankrupt businessmen. In a two-part series, The Dallas Morning News describes how a feeble regulatory system allows crooked operators to seize hospitals, bleed them dry and put patients’ lives in peril.

Part one details how a doctor purchased one of the nation’s most remote yet vital hospitals, only to drain it of millions of dollars to build an Alamo-style ranch in Texas. Part two examines failures by the feds and most states to perform basic background checks of businessmen before approving them for funding and licenses. James Cheek, for example, breezed through seven states, leaving 13 hospitals bankrupt or shuttered while enriching himself.