Outraged Sovereign Health Strikes Back in Culver City, CA
The head of Sovereign Health raged last Thursday at roundups conducted Tuesday at its San Clemente, Culver City and Palm Desert addiction rehabilitation centers, as well as the CEO’s San Juan Capistrano home. Accusing federal agents of employing strong-arm tactics, threatening company staff at gunpoint and frightening patients while following search warrants as part of an undefined criminal investigation.
Although federal officials have not revealed the nature of the investigation, a declaration released by the San Clemente-based company says it involves “reported financial and other violations.”
There were no arrests made during the operation, which FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said was conducted to explore for evidence in connection with “allegations of criminal activity.” She said the search warrants and accompanying affidavits were under seal, and she could not discuss the nature of the investigation.
Sovereign Health blasted the proceedings of the personnel who conducted the raid, saying their “actions seemed pointed more at harassment than enforcing the law” and claiming they handed out pamphlets to patients with contact information for some other behavioral treatment centers.
“The way they performed these search warrants was a disgrace,” said Sovereign CEO Tonmoy Sharma. “All they had to do was tell the senior management what they were looking for and we would have gladly complied. We have nothing to hide. Instead, they broke into our facilities, upsetting patients who are already fragile and dealing with trauma. They threatened our unarmed staff at gunpoint. And they didn’t even seem to know the reason they had busted into our facilities.”
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The CEO said that the “raid” looked fishy from the outset and told the agents “they completely avoided our accounting and financial staff, and rather, trained weapons on employees who fulfill duties such as patient intake. They snatched away the laptops of the content writers for our websites, and tried to break down a room’s door where a patient was undergoing neurofeedback, scaring them to death. They also searched my home and took medical books, but avoided a large safe which I offered the combination. This whole thing was ludicrous, so Mickey Mouse.”
Sovereign General Counsel Seth Zajac commented that on Tuesday, agents gathered all the legal workers into separate offices and would not permit them to observe the raid activities. He said that the actions of the law implementation officials were remarkably troubling and unethical.
Company spokesman Haroon Ahmad claimed that Sovereign, and other behavioral health treatment centers nationwide, are under harassment by officials and individuals who try to keep treatment facilities out of certain neighborhoods.
“We believe this whole thing was a ruse to obtain legal records that otherwise would only be accessible in the discovery process, Mr. Zajac said. “We filed a lawsuit against Health Net, Inc. and many of their affiliates to end discrimination against rehabilitation providers, and they filed a countersuit,” he explained.
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‘We call it NIMBYism — Not in My Backyard — when people try to legislate treatment out of existence,” Ahmad said. “The media is regularly reporting on the opioid epidemic and the national deficit of available beds, although local politicians and others have mobilized to force treatment facilities out of communities. We’ve been joining the San Clemente public in opposing against the NIMBY mentality. This and our legal confrontation against the authorities makes us a target.”
That was the second time in the past six months that the company had to endure a run-in with well-armed agents from a government agency, according to Sovereign’s statement.
In January, an armed man claiming to be from the California Department of Social Services “stalked the terrains” of the company’s San Clemente facility, according to Sovereign. The organization said it filed a formal complaint against the director of the agency’s Community Care Licensing Division because the man refused to give his identity, nor the agency he was working for, which the company disputes as illegal. Sovereign’s CEO said the incident is presently being investigated by the agency’s Internal Affairs investigation division.
“We are not allowing the retaliatory actions from a bunch of jack-booted thugs that get in the way of the serious business of offering top-notch care for our addiction and mental health issues patients,” Sharma said. “We identify what is behind this pattern of prosecution and strong-armed tactics. We will not be threatened, and will prevail.”
Sovereign Health offers mental health treatment and drug rehabilitation for people 18 and older, corresponding to the company’s website. Additionally to its California locations, the company has treatment centers in Arizona, Florida, Texas, and Utah