Friday, May 25, 2018
Business

Federal grand jury scrutinizing three former Universal Health Care executives

New court filings reveal that a federal grand jury is investigating three former top executives of Universal Health Care, the St. Petersburg Medicare insurer that collapsed last winter amid accusations of fraud and kickbacks.

In a motion filed in U.S. bankruptcy court in Tampa this week, former general counsel Sandip Patel, former marketing director Jeff Ludy and chief strategy officer Deepak Desai say they are "the subjects of an ongoing criminal investigation" by the U.S. Attorney's Office and "various," though unspecified, federal agencies. The motion also reveals that a federal judge on March 27 issued a search warrant for "documents and things" related to the three men.

Patel, Ludy and Deepak Desai are seeking court permission to pursue legal action against two insurance companies that were supposed to pay attorneys fees and claims arising from their tenure as Universal officers. The men say one of the companies has refused to pay.

Mention of a federal grand jury is further acknowledgement that authorities are looking into possible criminal conduct in Universal's rise and fall. In July, the court official charged with liquidating Universal's assets and paying creditors hired a top Miami law firm to coordinate with federal prosecutors "in connection with any criminal related matters."

And a bankruptcy trustee has alleged Universal's founder, Dr. Akshay Desai, along with Ludy and Patel, took kickbacks from vendors seeking to do business with Universal. Dr. Desai has denied the allegations, and the other three men have declined to comment.

Universal Health Care Group wound up in bankruptcy court in February after state regulators deemed it nearly insolvent and accused executives of financial mismanagement — including fraud and diversion of funds — under Dr. Desai's leadership. A month later, federal authorities seized computers and records during a search of Universal's opulent downtown St. Petersburg headquarters, where about 1,000 employees once worked.

The Tampa Bay Times has previously reported that even as Universal spiraled toward collapse, its top executives lived lavishly at the company's expense. Dr. Desai and his wife enjoyed weekends at a sumptuous corporate condominium decorated with at least $115,000 in furnishings, including original artwork.

On Tuesday — the same day three of those executives filed their motion — auctioneers began selling high-end office furniture, custom artwork and thousands of other items from Universal's headquarters.

Susan Taylor Martin can be reached at [email protected]

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