Grandy jury indicts former Tulare hospital attorney

The Tulare Local Healthcare District board chambers as of July 2022. Photo by Rigo Moran

Bruce Greene, who served as general counsel for the company managing Tulare hospital from 2014-2017, pleads no contest to 16-count felony indictment

TULARE COUNTY – The last remaining defendant in the case against former executives who defrauded the Tulare hospital district is heading to trial.

Bruce Greene, 72, pleaded not guilty to multiple felonies for his alleged role in a conspiracy to steal $13-$20 million from the Tulare hospital district and the Southern Inyo hospital district in Lone Pine, Calif. Greene, who appeared via Zoom, entered the plea during an arraignment on May 15 in the Visalia Division of the Tulare County Superior Court.

The arraignment comes after Green was indicted by a criminal grand jury on April 30 on 16 felony counts related to the administration of the Tulare hospital as part of Healthcare Conglomerate Associates (HCCA). Greene was lead counsel for HCCA during the time it handled administrative services for the Tulare hospital district from January 2014 through November 2017. A pre-trial hearing is scheduled for August 2, 2024, with a tentative trial in February 2025.

“We thank the members of the criminal grand jury for their time and deliberations in considering the many complexities of this case,” Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward said. “Prosecutors are prepared and looking forward to advancing this matter to the finality of a trial.”

The now unsealed criminal indictment lists the felony counts as conflict of interest, embezzlement, using an official position for personal gain, failure to timely file a statement of economic interest, conspiracy to commit a crime, grand theft, conspiracy to defraud another of property, grand theft by embezzlement of public funds, misappropriation of public funds, and money laundering. The crimes are alleged to have been committed in 2016 and 2017. 

Greene’s defense rejected a plea deal on Oct. 3, 2023 instead opting to head to trial.

A principal at the Cleveland-based firm BakerHostetler LLP, Greene was hired to serve as general counsel of the Tulare hospital district from Dec. 2, 2014 through Sept. 26, 2017 with legal fees totaling $3.3 million, according to a declaration filed by the district’s controller. During that time, Greene also served as attorney for HCCA and CEO Yorai “Benny” Benzeevi, the core of his conflict of interest charges.

On April 24, 2019, the hospital district filed a civil lawsuit suing Greene and BakerHostetler for breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, professional negligence and breach of contract. Greene’s alleged misconduct began a year after he was hired on May 4, 2016, when he filed a lawsuit against Dr. Abraham Betre on behalf of the district, but for the benefit of Benzeevi, even though the district was not mentioned in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit was dismissed by the court on Sept. 26, 2016, which Greene appealed on Nov. 23, 2016 and which Benzeevi paid the $78,000 appellate bond with district funds, which the district lawsuit says constitutes a breach of fiduciary duty.

The civil case against Greene was settled in January 2023, when the Tulare hospital district announced Greene and his law firm had agreed to pay $3 million.

The hospital district’s board also filed a complaint with the California Bar Association against Greene in 2020 requesting his license to practice law in the state be revoked. On Sept. 29, 2023 Greene’s case for disciplinary charges was filed in State Bar Court.

And while Greene’s license remains active, there is a consumer alert on the State Bar’s website explaining to the public he has been charged with a felony.

Last Man Standing in Court

Greene is the lone holdout of former HCCA executive charged with crimes. His co-defendant’s in the case have already accepted deals to plead guilty to some of their crimes for reduced sentences. Former HCCA CFO Alan Germany was sentenced Nov. 9 to two years probation, 540 hours of community service and to pay restitution of $100,000 to the Tulare hospital district and $50,000 to the Southern Inyo hospital district.

In the deal, Germany only plead to one felony county of conflict of interest for his involvement in the $250,000 Line of Credit between Tulare Local Healthcare District and Southern Inyo Healthcare District in 2016. A year later, the line of credit had doubled and it was discovered that HCCA received $3.1 million as a fee for guaranteeing the loan. Germany also plead to one misdemeanor count for failing to timely file a statement of economic interest.

Additionally, Germany was ordered by the court to issue an apology to the Tulare hospital district, which was read at the Nov. 29 meeting of the Tulare Local Healthcare District.

“I apologize and regret my involvement in the 2016 Line of Credit between Tulare Local Healthcare District and Southern Inyo Healthcare District. I also apologize for and regret my failure to file a Form 700 which would have disclosed my personal interests.”

HCCA’s former CEO, Benzeevi, entered a no contest plea to six felonies and two misdemeanors in court on Feb. 9. A no contest plea is not an admission of guilt but is treated as a guilty plea in terms of sentencing. Benzeevi is scheduled to return to court for sentencing on July 19, 2024.

Under California’s sentencing guidelines, the maximum he can receive is five years and four months in prison but will likely spend 120 days under surveillance of an electric monitor, 140 hours of community service and be on felony probation for two years. He will, however, have to pay $2.4 million in restitution to the hospital districts, $2 million to Tulare and $400,000 to Southern Inyo, according to court documents.

The six felonies included: misappropriating hospital district funds to pay for a lawsuit against Dr. Abraham Betre; using Tulare hospital funds to extend a $250,000 line of credit to Southern Inyo hospital district without the board’s knowledge; fraudulently sending $16,000 of Tulare’s hospital beds, IV pumps and refrigerators to Southern Inyo for use without the board’s knowledge; signing an agreement to sell the hospital’s own equipment for $3 million and then lease it back at a rate of over $80,000 per month for 36 months, but HCCA never made a single payment; falsely filing a deed of trust on the Evolutions Fitness and Wellness Center and saying the hospital district owed HCCA for IOUs issued to vendors without board approval.

The two misdemeanors included: failure to file a statement of economic interest in a timely manner; and his role in preventing the seating of an elected official.

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