Potential new owners of west-side treatment facility BBH have a rocky history with the group
Published: September 4, 2013
Baltimore Behavioral Health, the west-side drug- and mental health-treatment facility that declared bankruptcy late last year, is close to being sold to a group of investors who briefly served on—and where thrown off of—its board early this year.
For a total price of $560,000—$360,000 of which will be paid in 36 installments after closing—a company called JR Health Care Associates, LLC is set to buy the drug-treatment center and all its assets, plus assume the lease for the building it occupies at 1101 W. Pratt St., according to filings in the bankruptcy court.
“As far as I know, they’re going to pay the back rent and continue” to operate the clinic, says Robert Embry, president of the Abell Foundation and resident agent for West Pratt Holdings, LLC, which bought two buildings for $3 million from BBH in early 2012. BBH owes about $350,000 in back rent, the bankruptcy documents indicate. Embry describes JR Health Care as “a group of Indian doctors at UMD.”
There are at least two doctors associated with JR Health Care. But neither is currently affiliated with the University of Maryland (one was an assistant professor of psychiatry there from 2005 to 2010), and at least one of them plans little interaction with BBH, even though she owns the house in which JR Health Care is headquartered.
The company is something of a mystery, and that has raised community concerns about BBH’s future. The drug treatment facility, which served hundreds of patients with revenue of nearly $20 million at its peak, has been controversial in West Baltimore. The family-owned nonprofit ran into trouble with state regulators, the IRS, and others after The Baltimore Sun and City Paper revealed details of its operations, including shadowy housing providers who apparently received tens of thousands of dollars per month for renting out slum properties, and the spectacular pay received by BBH’s related executives. The family was effectively ousted from the board in late 2010.
Residents have complained about overcrowded “recovery houses” associated with BBH and other drug-treatment providers. They complain about panhandling, drug dealing, and other problems.
Founded on Dec. 3, 2012 (less than four weeks before BBH’s bankruptcy filing) JR Health Care Associates—JRH for short—operates from a townhouse at 5 Casey Court in Catonsville. The house is owned by Sushma Arramraju, a Towson University graduate who received her medical degree in 2007 from the Ross University School of Medicine in the Commonwealth of Dominica, according to a resume submitted as part of the bankruptcy transaction. She is currently an internist at MedStar Physician Partners at Wilkens, and her resume lists her present address in Brooklyn, New York. She says she will not have any significant role at BBH.
“I was there to look at the facility,” Arramraju says by phone. “But I have a full-time job.” She gives a reporter the phone number for her father, Jagan Mohan R. Arramraju.
In a short interview on Aug. 30 punctuated by what sounded like feedback through the phone, Arramraju says that he is awaiting final approvals in the bankruptcy court. He says he expects the transfer to settle by Sept. 30 and that he is not at liberty to discuss his group’s plans—including whether it planned to operate BBH as a nonprofit—until then. “I will give all the information on October 1,” he says.
A three-paragraph document Embry calls Arramraju’s “resume” says he is “a founder of an international health organization called LIFE” that has “two units of 200-bedded [sic] hospitals successfully running in Hyderabad, India.” It says Arramraju received his medical degree from Osmania University in India and has “more than 25 years of professional experience in managing and running hospitals in a professional way.”
Not included on Arramraju’s resume: an interest in Paradise Indian Cuisine, a Woodlawn restaurant whose liquor license was transferred to him and another person in February 2011.
Another investor, Harshal S. Vibhandik, “serves on the Board of Directors of ICON Technology, International Energy Holding Corp, North East Realty and Laxai Pharma Ltd as its chairman,” according to a two-paragraph description supplied by Embry. City Paper was not able to locate any business records for ICON Technology or International Energy Holding Corp. (An Iowa-based company by that name filed bankruptcy in 2011, but Vibhandik’s name was not in that file.)
According to a listing in Businessweek, Laxai Pharma, Ltd. is a thinly traded penny stock that, through a subsidiary, “operates as a contract research organization . . . providing integrated services across the drug development spectrum.” It was formerly known as “NexGen Biofuels,” and in that iteration reportedly arranged for tax breaks for ethanol developers. Vibhandik is not listed as its chairman, nor as a member of the board. He could not be reached for comment.
Jane Buccheri, a neighborhood leader who sits on a BBH advisory board, says someone associated with JR Health Care “owns a motel on Pulaski Highway, and one on Russell Street.” City Paper was not able to confirm this.
Vibhandik and Jagan Mohan Arramraju, along with Janaki Ram Ajjarapu (who is listed as the executive chairman of Laxai Pharma), were placed on BBH’s board in December 2012 after their newly formed company offered a $500,000 cash infusion to help BBH through bankruptcy, according to a related lawsuit.
On Jan. 11, three other supposed board members—John Sibrea, Jay D. Miller, and Terry Brown—voted to oust the three newcomers. “It is Resolved that the Contract with JRH to manage the daily affairs of BBH is revoked and Rescinded in its entirety,” an entry in the board minutes, included as an exhibit in a lawsuit JRH filed against BBH, says.
Among the reasons: “Failure to make available the line of credit. . . . Acted without authority in changing the BBH payroll company, and attempting to transfer Sun Trust funds . . . Misrepresented to landlord and other vendors that they were the new Board leaders . . . Misrepresented to employees their status as owners in derivation of agreement to manage not to own,” and violated patient confidentiality by bringing “family members” to the facility.
The contract in question is interesting in that it refers to BBH’s “profits,” indicating that JRH would prospectively receive three quarters, plus “market rate” interest on its $500,000 investment. But BBH is a nonprofit corporation.
Terry Brown was not a member of the board of that corporation, the JRH group said in its suit—and therefore there was no board quorum to remove the JRH members, who on Jan. 16 voted to oust Miller and Sibrea.
“Notwithstanding that the Plaintiffs have fully performed under the Management Agreement, and have in fact advanced approximately $132,802.74 to support the Debtor’s postpetition operations, the Debtor and its prior Board of Directors have attempted to defeat the Plaintiffs’ right to meaningfully participate in the Debtor’s management,” JRH said in its suit.
Brown has reportedly continued as BBH’s vice president for development and public face over the past year. He did not return calls from City Paper.
Also not returning calls: JRH’s lawyer, BBH’s bankruptcy lawyer, and the Bankruptcy Trustee, who was on vacation.
The last resume associated with JRH belongs to Ugandhar Vemulapalli, a psychiatrist listed as the medical director of “Man Alive Incorporation” since 2006. Man Alive is a 45-year-old drug-treatment facility on the 2100 block of Maryland Avenue. Vemulapalli was a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Maryland from 2005 to 2010, the resume says, and from 2000 to 2004 was a psychiatry resident there. He did not return a call from City Paper.
Over the summer JRH fought in bankruptcy court to gain control of BBH. At one point the bankruptcy judge, Robert A. Gordon, appeared ready to hand over BBH to a rival bidder, Behavioral Health Network, LLC, which business records indicate is controlled by Clark J. Hudak. Embry says Hudak’s group was not willing to rent the whole building, but would have left the top floor empty and effectively unleasable because of the confidentiality laws associated with BBH’s patients. JRH “offered the most money,” Embry says, though as of last week he was waiting for JRH to prove it has the money to make good on the contract, according to a motion West Pratt filed on Aug. 28.
Of the neighbor’s concerns about relapsing drug addicts and those who would serve them, he says treatment is needed. “It’s a competing good,” Embry says. “I want Hollins Market to thrive and prosper.”
Among JRH’s “duties,” according to a document in the lawsuits: “Improving the tarnished image of BBH.”
“We don’t want to get back into the situation we already had,” Buccheri says, “with a lot of additional support houses in the neighborhood [and] the corner of Pratt and Arlington is a nightmare every day from early morning to mid-afternoon.”
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