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August 21, 2014

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Judge continues Desai’s arraignment in hepatitis case until Friday

Third man arrested following grand jury indictments

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Attorney Jack Buchanan speaks as Keith Mathahs is arraigned in district court Tuesday, June 9, 2010 on felony charges stemming from a hepatitis C outbreak in 2008.

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Judge Donald Mosley addresses attorneys as Keith Mathahs is arraigned in district court Tuesday, June 9, 2010 on felony charges stemming from a hepatitis C outbreak in 2008.

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Dipak Desai

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One of the key figures involved in the hepatitis C scare that affected some 50,000 Las Vegas Valley residents two years ago has had his first criminal hearing continued until Friday morning in Clark County District.

Dr. Dipak Desai will have his initial arraignment before Judge Donald Mosley at 9 a.m. Friday in Courtroom 12B at the Clark County Regional Justice Center.

Mosley, who rescheduled Desai's arraignment this morning, also plans to decide whether to reduce the bail for one of Desai's co-defendants, Keith Harry Mathahs, 74, on Friday morning.

A third defendant in the case, Ronald Ernest Lakeman, 63, was arrested Tuesday night in Columbus, Ga., according to Michael Staudaher, chief deputy district attorney. Mosley indicated he wanted to group the three cases together. Mathahs and Lakeman are nurse anesthetists and worked for Desai at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada clinics.

Judge Elissa Caddish set bail at $500,000 each for Mathahs and Lakeman after a Clark County grand jury indicted Desai, Mathahs and Lakeman on 28 felony charges related to the 2007-2008 hepatitis outbreak linked to their Las Vegas Valley endoscopy clinics.

Desai has posted $1 million bail and is out of custody.

Mathahs' attorney, Michael Cristalli, asked for Mathahs' bail to be lowered to $50,000. But Mosley said he needed to familiarize himself more with the case and would consider it on Friday along with Desai's first arraignment.

The criminal indictment against the three men includes charges of racketeering, performance of an act in reckless disregard of persons or property, criminal neglect of patients, insurance fraud, theft and obtaining money under false pretenses. All are felonies.

Besides the nine hepatitis cases linked to Desai's clinic, the Southern Nevada Health District said more than 100 other patients were infected. The outbreak prompted health officials to recommend testing for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV to about 50,000 patients. The Health District said patients might have been infected when nurses and other staff members reused syringes on endoscopy patients.

The Health District also notified all patients who had undergone procedures at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada between March 2004 and January 2008 that they were at risk for possible exposure.

Desai, who faces several medical malpractice suites from patients who say they contracted hepatitis C at his Las Vegas clinics, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

In February, he surrendered his state medical license after having a series of health problems, including several strokes. He had practiced medicine since 1980

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