By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
Big money flows both ways between Gov. Rick Scott and entrepreneurial radiation oncologist Dr. Daniel Dosoretz.
Back in January 2012, Scott was an investor in the private equity firm that owned 21st Century Oncology, the high-flying cancer-care company Dosoretz founded and ran until shortly before it crash-landed last year in federal bankruptcy court after paying millions to settle allegations of Medicare and Medicaid fraud. (21st Century emerged from bankruptcy protection in February 2018 with a new leadership team.)
Also in January 2012, Scott appointees on the board of taxpayer-supported Broward Health voted to award Fort Myers-based 21st Century an unprecedented, 25-year no-bid contract to supply millions of dollars in radiation oncology services to the hospital district’s patients.
It wasn’t long before 21st Century began contributing big to Scott’s re-election campaign. Between May 2012 and January 2014, 21st Century contributed more than $360,000 to the governor’s Let’s Get to Work Political Action Committee. A few months later, Gov. Scott held a press conference at 21st Century’s headquarters. After Scott won re-election, 21st Century gave an additional $30,000 to Scott’s PAC, for a total of $390,000, state records show.
Fast forward to June 2017. Gov. Scott signs a state budget that includes a $733,660 non-recurring grant for DNA Comprehensive Therapy Services LLC, a Fort Myers for-profit founded in 2013 by Dosoretz’s daughter, Elizabeth Dosoretz, and her husband, Jason Moon. The company provides mental health treatment to adults and children under the name Elite DNA Therapy Services.
To help secure that money, Elite DNA hired Scott’s longtime friend, lobbyist William “Billy” Rubin, of Fort Lauderdale. Elite DNA paid Rubin, whose clients have included 21st Century, between $20,000 and $30,000 last year, records show.
Another non-recurring state grant
Buried in this year’s state budget, signed in March by Republican Scott, was yet another non-recurring grant of $733,660 to Elite DNA – bringing the total award from the state’s general revenue fund to $1.47 million. Scott had recommended the expenditure to the Legislature.
One month later, Dr. Dosoretz began to give back. Last April 18, Dosoretz contributed $10,800 to Rick Scott for Florida, the governor’s principal campaign committee in his race to unseat incumbent Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson. His wife, Celia Dosoretz, gave $5,400 a week later.
On May 8, 2018, two limited liability companies that list Dr. Dosoretz as managing member – Theriac Management Associates and TEM – sent a total of $70,000 to Scott’s “independent” New Republican Super PAC. Unlike a candidate’s campaign, Super PACs are allowed to raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions and individuals, but by law may not contribute to or coordinate directly with candidates or parties.
In August, Florida Bulldog reported that Scott’s administration also paid $200,000 in job-creation tax incentives to a management services subsidiary of 21st Century Oncology while the governor had his personal financial interest in the company.
Those incentives were approved by the state three days after Scott’s election in November 2010, while then fellow-Republican Gov. Charlie Crist was still in office. Two years later, at the company’s urging, Gov. Scott’s Department of Economic Opportunity amended the incentives agreement to make it more favorable to 21st Century.
Scott’s financial interest in 21st Century was via his “blind trust,” which had invested $210,000 in Vestar Capital Partners, the private equity firm that owned about two-thirds of its stock. The trustee of the blind trust was a company run by Scott crony Alan Bazaar.
Corruption allegations at Broward Health
Dosoretz and Gov. Scott also figured prominently in a politically stunning whistleblower lawsuit involving allegations of corruption surrounding Broward Health’s no-bid 25-year contract with 21st Century Oncology.
The False Claims Act suit was brought against 21st Century by former Broward Health board chairman David Di Pietro, claiming that the company paid kickbacks to secure that “extraordinary contract.” Those kickbacks allegedly included offers by 21st Century lobbyist Rubin to then-Broward Health CEO Frank Nask of financial security and the governor’s political protection. Nask, in turn, allegedly paid hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars as “hush money” to grease the deal by buying out the existing contract holder.
Dr. Nabil El Sanadi succeeded Nask as CEO in December 2014. According to the complaint, Rubin held a Jan. 19, 2015 meeting with El Sanadi, Di Pietro, lobbyist Jim Eaton and 21st Century boss Dosoretz.
At the gathering, Dosoretz “bragged” about his “close friendship with Governor Scott” and urged El Sanadi “to give more business to 21st Century,” the complaint says. Specifically, Dosoretz allegedly asked El Sanadi to arrange for Broward Health to circumvent eligibility rules of a government drug discount program for hospitals and buy the chemotherapy drugs used by his company to “save 21st Century monies on those drugs.”
Di Pietro, who operates his own Fort Lauderdale law firm, contends that Rubin continued to meet with El Sanadi “on a weekly basis” until El Sanadi killed himself on Jan. 23, 2016.
The complaint blames the corrupt 21st Century deal for leading to losses of more than $30 million between 2011 and 2016 for taxpayer-supported Broward Health. “Over the course of the potential 25-year term of the contract, Broward Health is on track to lose over $125 million.” The suit said potential billings by 21st Century during the 25-year term “will exceed $800 million.”
But Di Pietro’s allegations, filed in 2016, will likely never be tested in court.
The case was put on hold last year after 21st Century filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in New York. Di Pietro filed an adversary complaint in bankruptcy court seeking a ruling that his whistleblower claim was not a dischargeable debt that 21st Century could sidestep. He lost.
Last week, Di Pietro filed court papers in federal court in Fort Lauderdale voluntarily agreeing to dismiss his whistleblower complaint.