Dr. Yorai ‘Benny’ Benzeevi’s assets will stay frozen after Tulare County Judge Michael Sheltzer denied a motion that would have allowed Benzeevi to access money in his bank accounts or keep any future income.
Benzeevi’s bank accounts were ordered frozen in August 2020 when the Tulare County District Attorney’s office filed charges alleging he committed embezzlement, grand theft, and other crimes managing the Tulare Regional Medical Center and the Southern Inyo Hospital through the company he headed, Healthcare Conglomerate Associates (HCCA.).
The 2020 order also effectively prevents Benzeevi from legally accessing any funds or bank accounts in the future, including “any other thing of value” such as valuables and retirement accounts; the district attorney’s office also moved to freeze an account in Israel last month.
Benzeevi’s attorneys argued that the order was “fatally and legally flawed, both procedurally and substantively,” that it was unconstitutional, and that the basis for the order — to ensure restitution for the two hospitals — was without merit since both hospitals had settled their claims against Benzeevi and his companies.
Sheltzer rejected those arguments but did not deny the petition with prejudice, meaning Benzeevi could petition the court again.
During a September 29 hearing, Benzeevi’s attorneys stated that no efforts had been made by the district attorney’s office to determine whether or not the funds taken were “tainted” — proceeds from any alleged criminal activity.
Sheltzer wrote that there was no finding by the court that any of the proceeds were untainted — and that while no final determination had been made in the case, the “probable cause findings adopted by the court” supported the idea that the funds seized were tainted.
Benzeevi’s attorneys also claimed the freeze was a violation of the sixth amendment. Sheltzer rejected that argument as well, stating that a procedure exists for Benzeevi to request a portion of his frozen funds and assets in order to pay for legal proceedings — he has simply not done so.
Benzeevi was “invited” to petition the court for a release of funds, the judge’s ruling stated. Previously, Alan Germany, the former HCCA CFO, came to an agreement with the District Attorney’s office to access some of his seized accounts.
The judge also rejected the argument that settlement agreements between Benzeevi, HCCA, Tulare and Southern Inyo invalidated the potential for restitution.
“[…] any civil settlements with the hospitals do not satisfy the requirement that in every criminal case upon conviction the court must order restitution and fines both to make the victims whole and as possible punishment for criminal conduct,” the ruling stated.
The judge’s order is available below and in the Valley Voice’s HCCA Criminal Trial Docket tracker.