BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. – A former Broward Health purchasing director accepted a free flight in a Lear jet from a major vendor at the agency and requested that another potential vendor hire him as a consultant in order to get the work, sources involved in the investigation told Local 10 News.
Brian Bravo, who oversaw all purchases for the billion-dollar-a-year agency that runs Broward Health Medical Center and four other hospitals, received kickbacks and was engaged in other wrongdoing, according to Wayne Black, a private investigator hired last year by Broward Health last year to root out corruption there.
Former Broward Health Chairman David DiPietro confirmed that one of the first allegations brought to him was that Bravo accepted at least one free flight on a private jet courtesy of a Georgia-based medical supplies company called MedAssets, the top Broward Health vendor whom Bravo oversaw hundreds of millions of dollars worth of contracts.
Bravo was allegedly flown in a MedAssets jet from Haiti to Fort Lauderdele Executive Airport in 2010 after he decided to go home during a Broward Health good will mission there after the earthquake. DiPietro said he substantiate the allegation, but Dr. Peter Johnson, a Broward Health pathologist, said he was also on the flight at Bravo’s invitation.
"I became aware later the plane was owned by MedAssets," Johnson said, adding that the flight came with amenities including free beer. "I had one Miller Lite, which was quite enjoyable under the circumstances."
Johnson said FBI agents recently questioned him about the flight, informing him he was in no way a subject of the investigation. MedAssets parent company Vizient released a statement to Local 10 acknowledging a plane owned by then MedAssets CEO John Bardis had flown back and forth to Haiti at the time, but said neither Bravo's name nor Johnson's name was on the plane's manifest.
"We have no evidence of any improper dealings between MedAssets and Mr. Bravo," the company claimed. "Vizient is cooperating fully with the FBI's investigation of Broward Health."
Bravo also allegedly used his position to try to generate personal profit. When a Fort Lauderdale company called Sato Global Solutions was vying for a Broward Health contract, Bravo allegedly told a salesman the firm could get the work as long as Sato put him on the payroll as a consultant. Sato President Mike Beedles confirmed the allegation on the phone, saying the company has cooperated with authorities concerning Bravo.
"It was represented to me (Bravo) wanted to become a consultant," Beedles said. "It was certainly not something that we were interested in doing. We operate an ethical operation. It didn't feel right, it didn't sound right, and I told my team, let's walk away from this."
Bravo also allegedly had family members on the payroll. In September, it was discovered that a relative named Lilian Arias had been hired to work in a Broward Health warehouse that fell under his department. Emails show he initially denied Arias was a relative, prompting then-Regional Human Resources Director Denise Morris to question Arias.
"Brian I just spoke to (Arias) and she advised that she is your wife's aunt," Morris wrote to him. "This is inappropriate and we have been through this before."
In December, Broward Health terminated Bravo's employment as a result of the investigation and, despite the allegations and ongoing FBI investigation, supplied him with a severance package worth about $80,000. The severance agreement was signed by Bravo and the late Broward Health CEO Nabil El Sanadi, who committed suicide in January.
Another sticking point was that somehow Bravo was able to leave with his Broward Health-issued cellphone, a potential key piece of evidence in the investigation. Sources close to the investigation said Bravo later reported the phone had been lost. When asked how that was allowed to happen, Broward Health's general counsel refused to answer, citing the ongoing investigation. It's not known whether the feds were able to recover the phone.
Bravo dodged questions, speeding off in his BMW when approached by investigative reporter Bob Norman. Last week, Norman paid another visit to Bravo's Cooper City home and found that he and his family were moving out. Bravo hustled inside and refused to answer any questions. When Norman reached him on the phone, Bravo said he couldn't answer questions about Broward Health due to stipulations in the controversial severance package. Broward Health said it is cooperating fully with the FBI investigation, which is ongoing.