Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Broward Health former executive faces $600,000 in kickbacks allegation


A purchasing executive at Broward Health steered plum contracts to his accomplices in exchange for $600,000 in kickbacks, vacations to Cancun and the Bahamas, and even a pair of World Cup tickets, prosecutors say.

Now Brian Bravo, 46, faces up to 60 years in prison and a $1.25 million fine if convicted.

Bravo, the former head of purchasing for Broward Health, a hospital district that operates with taxpayer dollars, pleaded not guilty Friday in federal court in Fort Lauderdale to charges of bribery, money laundering and extortion.

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He was released Friday on $200,000 bond. His federal public defender, Jan Smith, declined to comment.

Broward Health also had no comment. “Mr. Bravo is not an employee of our system and has not worked for our organization in over five years,” said spokeswoman Jennifer Smith.

The indictment, first reported by the Florida Bulldog website, outlines a scheme that started in 2008 and went on until 2015. It involved four companies, two unnamed co-conspirators and at least one family member.

Three of the companies accused of paying kickbacks to Bravo received a total of $22 million in procurement contracts from the taxpayer-funded hospital district during the scheme.

The first company, not identified in the indictment, is based out of Port Reading, New Jersey. Its owner and founder, identified in court records only as “Co-conspirator #1,” started paying Bravo cash kickbacks in exchange for favorable contracts back in 2008.

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By 2014, the indictment says, Bravo wanted more than could be comfortably exchanged in cash. So Co-conspirator #1 started cutting him checks, payable to a company owned by a relative of Bravo’s, also not identified in the indictment.

By 2015, the year in which the authorities got wind of the scheme, Bravo had steered some $14.4 towards the New Jersey company, in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars of kickbacks.

The two other companies mentioned in the indictment sold medical linens and compression sleeves to the hospital district. A consultant, named only as “Co-conspirator #2,” helped negotiate their contracts with Bravo starting in 2013.

The consultant took a 3% cut of the contract as his fee and kicked some of that money back to Bravo, the indictment says.

The linen company received a $6.1 million contract with Broward Health after dealing with Bravo and Co-Conspirator #2. The compression sleeve company got a $1.4 million contract after entering into a similar arrangement.

Bravo, the indictment says, received several payments of $25,000 for facilitating the linen company contracts and at least one payment of $5,750 for facilitating the compression sleeve company contracts.

But the kickbacks weren’t enough for the hospital executive, the indictment says.

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In September 2015, Bravo is accused of asking Co-Conspirator #2 for a chance to invest in a health care procurement software company called Prodigo Solutions.

When Co-Conspirator #2 sent Bravo instructions for investing, and told him that the price of a share in the company was $45,000, Bravo allegedly told the consultant to “take care” of the payment by using kickbacks Bravo would be owed in the future from the linen and compression sleeve companies.

Bravo also is accused of having a relative take over a computer services company that had contracts with the hospital district and whose owner had died. He then charged his relative 40% of the company’s profits.

It was this computer services company that paid for Bravo’s family vacations to Cancun, the Bahamas, Walt Disney World and a cabin in North Carolina, prosecutors say.

The charges against Bravo come as another strike against a troubled hospital system that had achieved some stability after years of turmoil.

The institution has been under federal supervision since paying a $70 million fine in 2015 over running an improper payment system for physicians. The system’s chief executive, Dr. Nabil El Sanadi, killed himself in 2016, touching off years of instability and sagging morale, with a string of acting CEOs, lawsuits and bureaucratic warfare among board members, staff and its general counsel.

Word of Bravo’s alleged malfeasance first leaked out after the suicide when Wayne Black, a private investigator hired by El Sanadi, sent an email to the system’s general counsel claiming that the FBI was investigating Bravo.

After the FBI contacted Bravo, Bravo was terminated — and given six month’s severance pay, or about $75,000.

In March 2016, an independent investigation by a law firm hired by the district found that Bravo had been fired after an internal auditor found he had failed to disclose that a relative owned a company doing business with the district. The district’s corporate security director met with the FBI, asked whether they had “probable cause” to arrest him and was told they did not.

The latest Broward Health CEO, Gino Santorio, whose two years of leadership had brought a measure of stability to the system, announced late last year he was resigning to take the top job at Mount Sinai Medical Center of Greater Miami.

The taxpayer-supported system, which operates hospitals and outpatient center in the northern half of Broward County, is overseen by a seven-member board appointed by the governor.


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