Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2011 | 9:49 p.m.
A Henderson pediatrician has been charged with fraud in connection with what federal prosecutors allege was an experimental stem cell implant operation to swindle investors and chronically ill patients.
In a superseding indictment, Dr. Ralph Conti, 50, was charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, eight counts of mail fraud, 15 counts of wire fraud and criminal forfeiture, according to Daniel G. Bogden, U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada.
Conti is scheduled for arraignment on Oct. 13 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Carl W. Hoffman.
Alfred Sapse, 85, of Las Vegas, who was previously indicted, has also been charged in the superseding indictment, according to court documents.
If convicted, the men could each serve up to five years in prison on the conspiracy charge and up to 20 years on each fraud charge. They could also face fines of up to $250,000 for each charge and forfeiture of up to $913,748, officials said.
Sapse is suspected of having convinced patients and investors to pay him large sums of money for experimental implant procedures since January 2005, a news release from the U.S. attorney’s office said. He allegedly received about $1 million from patients and investors and used $700,000 of that money on personal expenditures and for gambling, the release said.
Sapse has never held a medical license from Nevada or any state and allegedly told patients he was a retired foreign physician, officials said.
In the fall of 2005, Sapse allegedly hired Conti to perform the procedures, without any previous stem cell training, officials said. The procedures involved placental tissue being implanted into the abdomen of the patients, officials said.
The procedures were not approved by the Food and Drug Administration and would not benefit the patients, according to the news release.
Sapse allegedly created a bogus Nevada-based pharmaceutical company and targeted patients in extreme stages of illness, officials said. According to the release, Sapse told patients the procedure would cure people with diseases such as multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy.
From about February 2006 to November 2006, Conti allegedly performed the procedure on about 34 patients in Las Vegas, officials said.
In November 2006, several patients suffered from infections from the procedures and the FDA sent the two men warning letters outlining the procedures were against federal law, officials said. After the letters were issued, Conti allegedly performed one procedure and Sapse is suspected of coordinating implants for two more patients, the news release said.
Sapse relocated to Mexico in Febuary 2007 and entered into an arrangement with a Mexican physician with an office in Nuevo Progresso, Mexico, officials said. Sapse allegedly directed the Mexican physician to performed the stem cell procedure on about 100 patients in Mexico between February 2007 and May 2010, officials said.