Key figure in Brockton marijuana business faced lawsuits
A prominent South Shore businessman who has been sued by creditors for hundreds of thousands of dollars in debts run up by health facilities he co-owned is a key player in a company recently awarded a state license for a Brockton medical marijuana dispensary.
Douglas Noble was listed as the chief executive of In Good Health Inc. on the company’s initial application for a dispensary license, but was replaced by his son on the final application and now is listed as an adviser for compliance with government regulations. That change exempted him from a state background check that probably would have turned up his financial difficulties.
Among the suits is one filed last year by the widow of a former NFL player who says Noble bought her husband’s health clubs after he died, then reneged on their deal and still owes her about $400,000 from the sale.
The questions about Noble and In Good Health are just the latest problems that have come to light about some of the businesses awarded the state’s first 20 dispensary licenses last month.
Several others either shuffled top executives at the last minute or failed to disclose a major investor, with the effect in one case that state regulators did not learn of a bankruptcy.
Other dispensaries filed applications containing misstatements about their support from local elected officials, an important criterion in the scoring of the 100 applicants that competed for licenses.
Noble once co-owned about a dozen nursing homes in Massachusetts, as well as assisted living facilities, many of them south of Boston. Court records show he has had financial problems going back at least a decade.
In Good Health signed a lease in November for its dispensary and cultivation site on West Chestnut Street in Brockton. The landlord, Mark Abrams, says that he and his elderly mother are owed roughly $375,000 by Noble for unpaid loans dating back to 2003, according to a suit Abrams filed.
Buried in the lease is an agreement that the dispensary will pay Abrams 4 percent of its annual profits over $1 million from its marijuana business. That is in addition to $11,333 the dispensary will pay Abrams in monthly rent. The company projected in its application that its annual profit would not exceed roughly $220,000 in the first three years.
None of the leases signed by companies that won the 19 other dispensary licenses contain similar agreements.
In Good Health signed the lease with Abrams in November, eight months after Abrams filed his lawsuit against Noble.
Noble said Wednesday that the arrangement to pay profits from the company’s marijuana business to Abrams is in no way connected to the money he owed the Abramses.
“One has nothing to do with the other,” Noble said. “One is a personal matter; the other is business.”
Noble said he chose Abrams’s building simply because it was “a terrific location.”
Noble maintained that he has resolved his debts with Abrams, but declined to detail that resolution.
Abrams’ lawyer, Evans Huber of Wellesley, similarly said the lawsuit “has been resolved,” though it is still pending in Norfolk Superior Court.
When asked if In Good Health’s agreement to lease the Brockton property from Abrams and pay him a share of the marijuana dispensary revenues was part of the settlement, Huber said, “I don’t think even if I knew the answer to that I could comment on that.”
Noble is no stranger to lawsuits and liens.
Court records show that Massachusetts slapped Noble with roughly $95,000 in state tax liens in August 2003 for unpaid taxes on three nursing homes he owned in Canton, Wareham, and Rochdale. A month later, records show, Noble signed the first of two personal loans with Abrams and his mother.The tax liens were eventually paid, the records indicate, but other creditors soon followed.
In 2005, Kindred Healthcare bought several facilities from Noble and his partners, including 11 nursing homes and four assisted living residences, records show.
Kindred later sued Noble and his former business partners, arguing that Massachusetts state audits determined that Noble’s company had overbilled the state’s Medicaid agency by roughly $785,000 when it owned the facilities, and the state went after Kindred, the current owner, for the money.
The two sides reached an out-of-court settlement in June 2010.
That same month, according to a lawsuit, Noble bought a Norwell health club from Kimberly Trapilo, the widow of Stephen Trapilo, a former Boston College football star who went on to play in the National Football League.
Stephen Trapilo, who bought health clubs after his playing days, died of a heart attack in 2004, leaving his widow with three young sons, the records show.
When Noble bought the Norwell club, he signed a note agreeing to pay back the $600,000 to Trapilo’s widow over five years, but he stopped paying in late 2012 and still owes about $400,000, according to the suit filed last year by Trapilo in Norfolk Superior Court.
Noble admitted in court documents to borrowing the money and falling behind on payments, but maintains the bills have been paid.
A separate lien for $80,000 against Noble and his health club business partners is pending, records show, involving unpaid rent and eviction proceedings from the facility.
Noble, who is an attorney, said he could not comment on the various nursing home and health club lawsuits because he did not have the documents readily available.
He said he stepped down as chief executive from the dispensary business, and became a top adviser instead, because of “personal problems” involving his pending divorce and the death of his sister which, he said, made it difficult for him to focus on work.
“It’s a terrible time in my life,” Noble said.
The state Department of Public Health, which awarded the 20 licenses last month but did not verify much of the information in the applications, said in a statement that its licensing decisions are not yet final.
“The department will be meeting all provisionally approved registered marijuana dispensaries in the next several weeks to review their financial and operational plans, as well as determine the veracity
of statements they have made in the application process before any final certificates
of registration are issued,” it said.