Drinker Biddle has been hit with a complaint accusing one of its partners of improperly briefing a client on details of an investigation he learned about during a previous stint as a federal prosecutor.
The suit says a joint venture to establish a drug rehab center fell apart after attorney Antonio Pozos linked one of the parties in the deal to a massive Medicaid fraud case.
According to the suit, filed Tuesday, Hackensack University Medical Center and Carrier Foundation signed a deal with Jonathan Lasko, a manager of drug detox centers, in June 2017 to establish a rehab facility in Mahwah, New Jersey. But HUMC and Carrier, a behavioral health care provider in Belle Mead, pulled out of the deal in February after Carrier’s counsel at Drinker Biddle advised them that Lasko was a “person of interest” in a Medicaid fraud investigation. Lasko, the plaintiff, says the information against him is “false, inaccurate and/or misleading” and was not a sufficient basis to abandon the joint venture.
Lasko said the source of the information was Pozos, who joined Drinker Biddle’s Philadelphia office in January 2018 after three years in the Criminal Division, Fraud Section at the Department of Justice. Lasko brought claims for libel, false-light defamation and tortious interference with prospective business relations against Pozos and Drinker Biddle. The suit also brings a claim for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing against HUMC and Carrier. The suit seeks $17 million in damages.
Lasko and his company, JNL Management, asserted in the suit that Pozos should have kept information about the Medicaid probe to himself.
The suit said officials of HUMC told a lawyer for Lasko on Feb. 16 that they would not proceed with the joint venture because an unnamed Drinker Biddle lawyer told them Lasko is “a person of interest” in connection with the prosecution of Philip Esformes. In July 2016 Esformes, who owns over 30 skilled nursing facilities in South Florida, was indicted in a $1 billion scheme to defraud Medicare.
Drinker Biddle told the HUMC officials the Department of Justice “is not done with” Lasko, and that Enformes has a financial interest in Lasko’s company, JNL, the suit claims. In addition, the HUMC officials told Lasko’s lawyer that Drinker Biddle told them Lasko has a business relationship with a man known as “Mr. Delgado,” a person involved in the Esformes case, and that Lasko is under investigation for possibly referring patients to facilities in which Esformes has or had an interest.
“Even, assuming arguendo, that the statements were true, they should not have been disclosed by Pozos as, at a minimum, Pozos committed a violation of his duty of confidentiality. There may be additional improprieties committed by Pozos, including, without limitation, violations of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, as well as state bar rules and federal regulations, but that is not for this matter,” Lasko’s suit stated. There is no publicly available information about the allegations, Lasko said in the suit.
Carrier and HUMC face a count for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.
According to the complaint, the lawyer for JNL, Holly Schepisi, said she was told that the information came from Drinker Biddle through a “recently hired partner who was formerly with the DOJ.”
Lasko says that if HUMC and Carrier had carried out the deal to open the drug facility, his company would have received revenue of $29 million over the next 20 years, with profits of $16.4 million.
Pozos and Drinker Biddle would not comment on the case. Lasko’s lawyer, Jeffrey Lichtstein of Cohen Tauber Spievack & Wagner in New York, also declined to comment.
Mary Jo Layton, a spokeswoman for Hackensack Meridian Health, the parent organization of HUMC, declined to comment. Shannon Hurley, a spokeswoman for Carrier, also declined to comment.