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August 1, 2014

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Police probe of clinic cases in hepatitis outbreak nears end

Prosecutors expected to get results next month

Sun Coverage

At long last, Metro Police are winding down one of the Las Vegas Valley’s most complicated and anticipated criminal investigations in recent years.

After 21 months of investigating, detectives next month expect to turn over to prosecutors the criminal case stemming from last year’s hepatitis C outbreak, courthouse sources said.

The chief target of the investigation is Dr. Dipak Desai, the owner of the now-bankrupt clinics suspected of exposing thousands of patients to the potentially deadly virus during routine colonoscopies. Other medical personnel associated with the clinics, including the anesthetists who injected patients with the sedative propofol during the procedures, are also facing criminal charges, the sources said.

About 5,000 former patients, including roughly 300 who allege the sloppy handling of propofol led to their infections, are suing Desai and the clinics in District Court.

The parallel police investigation, conducted by a team of intelligence detectives, analysts and support staff, has faced numerous obstacles from the beginning.

There was a lack of cooperation from witnesses, many of whom took the Fifth Amendment, and investigators had to pore over 98,000 medical files containing hundreds of thousands of pages of documents.

The decision on whether to file criminal charges will rest with District Attorney David Roger.

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THE SUSPECT: Weapons and ammunition were found in Colby Schoolcraft's home, but no criminal complaint has been filed against him.

Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Eric Goodman on Thursday ordered Metro Police to return everything they seized in a midnight raid last month at the Las Vegas home of anti-Scientologist Colby Schoolcraft.

Among the items SWAT officers and counterterrorism detectives took were several rifles, including a semi-automatic Yugoslavian AK-47, and numerous boxes and cases of ammunition.

Police arrested Schoolcraft, 23, during the raid for allegedly making threats against the Church of Scientology over the Internet, but the district attorney’s office has not filed a formal criminal complaint.

Schoolcraft is a member of the Internet-fueled group Anonymous, which has embarked on a worldwide campaign to harass the celebrity-laden church.

Lt. Kevin McMahill of Metro’s Counter Terrorism Section said police are disappointed that they have to return the weapons in the middle of the investigation.

“I don’t think it’s a blow to our case, but certainly we would have liked to keep those weapons and ammunition out of his hands at this point,” McMahill said.

Police expect to decide whether to ask the district attorney to file charges against Schoolcraft within the next couple of weeks.

In court papers arguing for the return of the property, which also includes computers and anti-Scientology materials, Schoolcraft’s attorney, Chris Rasmussen, insisted Schoolcraft is just a gun enthusiast who is not planning to commit any acts of violence.

Rasmussen said his client’s Web posting was misinterpreted by police and the Scientology church, which the lawyer alleged has a history of trying to suppress the free speech rights of its critics.

Top attorneys for the Los Angeles-area-based church had asked police to investigate Schoolcraft, a camera buff who has posted videos on YouTube of his group’s protests outside the Las Vegas Scientology church. Both the Web posting and the videos were put up under the screen name “cameranonymous.”

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