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But this isn't the first time someone has accused Bezuidenhout of questionable activities. Three years ago, Bezuidenhout's former employer, Life Source Services, a Lakewood hospice, accused her of stealing its trade secrets and using them to start Namaste; the company also accused her of committing computer crime. Bezuidenhout was hired as Life Source Service's chief operating officer and chief executive officer on June 1, 1997. When she resigned on May 18, 1998, Life Source alleges, she took much of its proprietary information along with her, including the company's policies and procedures manual, training materials, brochures, forms, customer lists and even its strategic plan. Life Source vice president Jay Analovitch wouldn't comment on the matter because he says it's company policy not to discuss former employees, but a Lakewood Police Department report lays out his accusations.
According to the report, Analovitch hired private investigator Janet Bayless to gather information before going to the authorities. "On the day of her resignation, Mr. David Sebbag (the principal stockholder of Life Source Services, Inc.) discovered that Ms. Bezuidenhout intended to open a competing hospice called Namaste Care Group. Mr. Sebbag immediately advised Ms. Bezuidenhout that she was not to enter the premises of Life Source Services, Inc. Mr. Sebbag later learned that Ms. Bezuidenhout had entered the building during the evening of May 18, 1998, and had removed items from the office. Mr. Sebbag had the locks changed the next day," the police report states.
The Lakewood police officer who filed the report went on to note that, "Ms. Bayless told me that in early 1998, Ms. Bezuidenhout had the secretary/receptionist for Life Source Services, Inc., Katherine A. Perry, download all information from Life Source Services, Inc., onto diskettes...Ms. Bezuidenhout said she wanted this material to be copied on diskettes so she could take the diskettes to a safe place off-site in case of a natural disaster."
The report also states that Perry briefly worked for Bezuidenhout while on vacation from her job at Life Source; after Bezuidenhout left the company, the report continues, Perry was told by Bezuidenhout to call up the documents she had downloaded several months earlier on a computer in an office where Bezuidenhout was working. "She was then instructed to bring up each document, and everywhere she saw 'Life Source Services, Inc.' she was to replace those words with 'Namaste Care Group.' Ms. Bezuidenhout paid Ms. Perry for her work with a personal check. Apparently, Ms. Perry did not feel right about what was occurring, so she went to Mr. Analovitch and told him what was going on.
"Mr. Analovitch said that he believed Ms. Bezuidenhout had orchestrated this since before the beginning of the year. He said that all records relating to bereavement work, that are required by Medicare of all hospice facilities, are missing from the patient files. He said they had to mail a form letter to more than 300 families of deceased patients to rectify this violation. This cost his company in excess of $5,000...Mr. Analovitch added that Ms. Bezuidenhout has recruited many of his employees to come and work for her," according to the report.
Bezuidenhout deferred comment on the allegations to a December 11, 1998, letter her attorney wrote to the Lakewood police detective who investigated the claims. "Through her attorney, Ms. Bezuidenhout reported that the material that Life Source Services claimed was stolen from them she had developed before coming to work for Life Source Services and that the material was all original works of Ms. Bezuidenhout," the police report states. "Additionally, as there was no agreement which prohibited her from using the material, she did not believe that there would be a problem taking it. However, to avoid any problems, Ms. Bezuidenhout returned the material. Ms. Bezuidenhout denies that she removed any paperwork from patient files. It is Ms. Bezuidenhout's belief that the case was filed in retaliation for her leaving Life Source Services." According to the letter written by her attorney, Bezuidenhout left Life Source Services because she had not received the salary or the benefits she'd been promised.
The Lakewood Police Department turned the case over to the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office, which declined to prosecute, saying the damages listed as a result of the computer crime are civil in nature. "They are incidental damages that, while certainly real, are not considered damages in the criminal case," explained then-deputy district attorney Brian Boatright in a report. He added that in order to issue a summons on the theft-of-trade-secrets charge, he would need to establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, what was done with the customer lists and where the other allegedly stolen paperwork originated.
In late April, Concerned Friends Raskin and Henderson and the Anam Chara board of directors met in hopes of finally resolving their differences.
They came to the same conclusion they'd reached in March: The most reasonable option would be to sell the Denver home -- to Namaste or to another elder-care organization -- and use the money to repay Namaste for running the Denver home and paying the mortgage on the Boulder property. (When Namaste's lease agreement ends in late June, Anam Chara will owe the company $50,000 to $60,000, Bezuidenhout says.) Any money that was left over could be used to reopen the Boulder home. The board would then resign and allow the Concerned Friends to take over.