The ex-chief executive officer of Tulare Regional Medical Center at the center of a massive criminal case tied to misconduct during his tenure is now in custody after being charged in absentia by Tulare County prosecutors.
Dr. Benny Benzeevi, formerly the chief executive officer of Healthcare Conglomerate Associates (HCCA) – the one-time operator of Tulare’s public hospital – was arrested by agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation at Los Angeles International Airport on Thursday night.
Benzeevi left the country on March 1, 2019.
Prosecutors, who charged a trio of HCCA officials in August, believed that Benzeevi fled to his home country of Israel.
Following coordination with Benzeevi’s lawyers, Tulare prosecutors, the FBI, and the U.S. Embassy for the Philippines in Manilla, Benzeevi agreed to self-deportation and return to the United States.
It is not clear how or when Benzeevi arrived in the South Pacific.
As part of the self-deportation agreement with prosecutors, he surrendered his passport.
Benzeevi and two other high-ranking HCCA officials – chief financial officer Alan Germany and chief counsel Bruce Greene – were charged with 40 felonies related to their management of the hospital, including misappropriation of government funds, conflicts of interest, money laundering, embezzlement, theft, and failure to disclose funds intended to influence a political campaign.
At the crux of many of the charges against Benzeevi and his associates is the blurred lines between HCCA’s relationship with the Tulare Healthcare District and another local public hospital it managed – the Southern Inyo Hospital in Lone Pine.
Benzeevi was charged with a conflict of interest for hiring Dr. Parmod Kumar, a Tulare hospital district trustee and gastroenterologist, as Medical Director for Southern Inyo.
Benzeevi is also under criminal scrutiny for his interference in a Tulare Healthcare District board election wherein he hired a private Israel-based intelligence contractor to conduct a shadow smear campaign against top candidates seeking to oust an incumbent board member.
His actions were the subject of an exposé by The New Yorker magazine.
Underlying a number of felony charges were $22 million in loans taken by the Tulare-based hospital district under heavy advisement by Benzeevi. Millions in loan proceeds made their way into Benzeevi’s personal accounts via embezzlement and money laundering schemes, prosecutors allege.
After being booked into Tulare County Jail, the former medical CEO was released on $4 million bail.
Benzeevi is scheduled for arraignment on Jan. 6.