Friday, 26 Feb 2021

Denver attorney accused of mishandling nearly $2 million in funds for personal protective equipment

A Denver attorney has been accused by two companies of mishandling nearly $2 million earmarked for personal protective equipment purchases during the coronavirus pandemic.

Steven Bachar promised one company, Denver-based DaVita Inc., that he would provide 4,200 cases of N95 masks in exchange for $2.4 million in April, but then never provided the masks and failed to return the company’s initial payment of $604,000, according to that lawsuit, filed in October.

Last week, a second business, The Future Health Company, made similar allegations, filing a complaint that said Bachar failed to pay them for 3 million medical gowns that Future Health sent to the state of Wisconsin.

In that case, Bachar contracted with The Future Health Company in May to manufacture and ship the gowns to Wisconsin, but when the state paid Bachar for the gowns, he in turn failed to pay Future Health, according to the lawsuit filed in Denver District Court. The company, which is based in California, says it is owed $1.2 million, and that Bachar’s failure to pay delayed the delivery of the gowns and jeopardized the health of Wisconsin’s workers.

In a brief phone conversation Tuesday, Bachar said dispute with Future Health will soon be resolved.

“This was nothing more than a simple business dispute between partners,” he said. “It will all be completely settled over the next 48 hours. And importantly, all of the PPE that has been ordered has either been received or will be over the next several days, providing critical help to frontline workers.”

He declined to say why the money had not already been transferred to the companies but denied misusing the funds.

“I’ve had no personal gain from either of these transactions and in fact will be donating to the Wisconsin United Way any profits I ultimately make,” he said, adding later, “There are plenty of bad actors in this space, but all I want to do is to get the product to the people who need it.”

Bachar over the course of several weeks this fall offered a variety of reasons for his failure to send all the money he owed to The Future Health Company, ranging from his business partner having a stroke, to a surprise trip to the emergency room, to being unable to complete the transfer online, to his accountant being “swamped,” according to the lawsuit.

“While Bachar spun his web of fraud, deceit, delay and obfuscation, (Future Health Company’s) manufacturers began to halt production on the gowns and hold certain gowns that had already been manufactured from delivery to Wisconsin for nonpayment,” the lawsuit reads. “Moreover, Wisconsin was hit with a third wave of COVID-19 infections requiring the immediate need to fulfill the remaining portion of the Wisconsin (order).”

Despite the non-payment to Future Health, most of the gowns have been delivered to Wisconsin, with the remaining shipments arriving in the next few days.

In the DaVita case, Bachar repeatedly said he would return the company’s $604,000 and pay interest on the sum, but never did, according to the lawsuit. After DaVita, which provides kidney dialysis services, filed its complaint, Bachar offered to settle the case by paying the company $700,000 on or before Dec. 7, and DaVita agreed. However, that payment was never made, according to the lawsuit.

“The money is in the process of being refunded after solving issues in a chain of brokers that were involved in the transaction,” Bachar said Tuesday.

Attorneys for the two companies declined to comment Tuesday; the lawsuits are independent from each other.

State business records show Bachar launched his business, Empowerment Health, on March 22, as the novel coronavirus was first gaining ground in the United States, and soon thereafter began offering to procure personal protective equipment for various entities at a time when there was a massive shortage of such supplies.

Bachar previously worked with Sen.-elect John Hickenlooper, serving as counsel on Hickenlooper’s campaign for Denver mayor and on his transition team, according to a news release that detailed his career when he joined the Denver law firm Moye White in 2015.

Bachar also served in the White House under President Bill Clinton and in the Treasury Department before he moved to Denver.

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