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Health News Florida

'Away From Your Computer! We Have a Search Warrant'

Health-fraud investigators spent most of Thursday night copying data from the computers at Universal Health Care after federal agents raided the company early Thursday and ordered hundreds of workers out of their offices in the downtown St. Petersburg building.

Meanwhile, Dr. Akshay "A.K." Desai, who founded and ran the Medicare and Medicaid  HMO company, was nowhere in evidence. The gates were closed at his ultra-modern mansion on Tampa Bay.

But Desai was much on the minds of both investigators -- mostly from the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services -- and the Florida investors who sank millions of dollars into  Desai's venture, now in bankruptcy court.

As The Tampa Bay Times reported, this week a bankruptcy court trustee alleged a "pattern of dishonesty or gross mismanagement'' at Universal including "side deals'' that benefited insiders. The trustee said that last year Desai transferred more than $18 million from the foundering company to another of his holdings and arranged for the company to pay him more than $3 million in salary and bonuses.

Federal agents allowed a skeleton crew to remain at the headquarters to handle treatment authorizations and other member needs.

See Health News Florida's story "If You Know Someone on Universal," which explains the steps that members need to take to minimize any financial fallout from the company's closing, set for Sunday.

--Health News Florida is a service of WUSF Public Media, at www.HealthNewsFlorida.org.  Contact Editor Carol Gentry at 813-974-8629 (desk) or 727-410-3266 (cell).

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