Tampa CEO accused of using startup funds on escorts pushes back

The new filing says the CEO’s former business partner exaggerated claims over misused funds.
Check for the latest breaking news.
Check for the latest breaking news. [ Times ]
Published Dec. 16, 2020|Updated Dec. 16, 2020

TAMPA — The CEO of a startup health care app accused of misusing funds on strip clubs and Uber Eats has shot back in court, alleging his former business partner and best friend is using the legal system as a malicious form of retaliation.

Attorneys for Ecover Global CEO Raymond “Ben” Sever filed a motion to block a request to depose him, arguing that ex-business partner’s Brandon Bowen’s case is so thin that it should proceed no further. Bowen, who has a minority stake in the company, has accused the CEO of misusing upwards of $400,000 in startup money.

In the most recent filing, Sever’s attorneys argued Bowen is using lawsuits to “repeatedly publish wildly offensive, salacious and damaging claims.” The filing also argues that Bowen and his legal team have “attached dozens of pages of inflammatory and irrelevant material.”

Sever’s lawyer, Tampa attorney Jonathan Ellis, declined comment on behalf of his client. Bowen and his attorney did not return phone calls or emails requesting comment.

Sever is the subject of two lawsuits filed by Bowen and a third filed by Bowen’s parents. That third lawsuit was filed last month. Bowen’s parents, Darrell and Rebecca Bowen, were seeking an injunction to prevent Sever from contacting them.

The lawsuit said that a string of angry voicemails started just before 5 a.m. about a month after their son filed his second lawsuit against Sever. Sever had first tried to convince Bowen’s father to hand the phone over to his son.

“We could out-litigate Jesus Christ” Sever, 28, said in one of the early morning messages, according to transcripts included in that case file. He told told Bowen’s family he and his legal team would “rain down on you from, like, the holy (expletive) ghost,” the lawsuit says.

Related: Tampa CEO accused of using startup funds on escorts, trips and strip club visits

Ecover Global runs a messaging app for doctors and patients. Bowen filed one lawsuit in June and another in September that both accused of Sever of using company money as a “personal piggy bank,” according to court records.

A judge recently denied the injunction request filed by Bowen’s parents and Sever’s attorneys have filed to dismiss the most recent lawsuit altogether. That lawsuit also accuses Sever of being “apparently under the influence of drugs or alcohol” when the calls were made.

Bowen alleged that Sever spent the startup’s money on alcohol and trips to bars along with on gifts, trips and family members. His lawsuits say Bowen was fired after he confronted Sever about his spending habits.

In the latest filing, Sever’s attorneys argue that Bowen’s allegations did not come up until after he was already fired. Further, the filing says the transactions Bowen used in his lawsuit were listed “multiple times” to create “over-inflated dollar amounts.”

Sever, who court filings say has an 80 percent stake in Ecover, had been seeking investor funding during a pitch night hosted by the Tampa Bay Wave in January. At that time, he told potential investors the company had already raised $700,000 and was valued at $35 million.