Akshay M. Desai, former CEO of the defunct Universal Health Care Group, has filed a lawsuit claiming the company’s former chief financial officer taped at least one of their private conversations and played it for others.
Desai is seeking money damages for the alleged taping and an injunction to prevent Kassim Aly Mahmood from using the tape again.
Mahmood could not be reached for comment and did not respond to an email asking for comment.
Desai declined to be interviewed, but issued a written statement saying he did not have details about the taping but believes he “will get better picture when Mr. Mahmood will answer those questions.”
Desai added: “I don’t have complete picture about all of Mr. Mahmood’s unauthorized activities and interactions with many parties both public and private institutions. It is my moral obligation to get to the bottom of the conspiracy to undermine my company Universal Health Care Group where I invested my lifetime of blood, sweat equity and tremendous amount of financial resources to build that into a thriving enterprise employing more than 1,000 employees in downtown St. Petersburg. I am also obligated to clear my name and I am very confident that with the help of almighty, truth and justice will prevail and those guilty will be exposed and pay for their misdeeds.”
Desai was the founder and former officer and board member of St. Petersburg-based Universal Health Care Group, which owned Universal Health Care and Universal Health Care Insurance Co. The worth of the companies exceeded $1 billion at one point and had members in 23 states. The apparent success of the company gave Desai entree into political circles. Then Gov. Jeb Bush appointed him to serve on the Board of Governors that oversees the state’s university system. And a bankruptcy filing noted that, in the four years before the companies filed for bankruptcy in February 2013, the company made political and charitable donations that totaled $663,002.25.
Later in 2013, the FBI raided the company. Regulators accused the company’s leadership of fraud and diversion of funds.
Mahmood, who had been hired as the CFO in 2012, was appointed as the chief restructuring officer, which essentially put him in control of the company.
It is unclear from the lawsuit when Mahmood was supposed to have made the tape or tapes. The information came up during a deposition made during the bankruptcy action. Desai’s attorney asked Mahmood if he had ever recorded a conversation with Desai. Mahmood refused to answer and asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination (secretly taping someone is against the law in Florida). The lawsuit says Mahmood invoked the Fifth Amendment more than 40 times when he was asked about taping one or more private conversations and sharing them with other people.
“It is appropriate to infer from Mahmood’s refusal to testify that he impermissibly recorded at least one conversation with Dr. Desai while Mahmood was employed by UHC Group,” the lawsuit says. “Mahmood recorded Dr. Desai without Dr. Desai’s knowledge or consent, and he did so knowing that Dr. Desai had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the conversation.”
The suit alleges that Desai suffered actual damages from the taping although it does not specify what those damages are.