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December 19, 2014

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Court tosses racketeering charge in hepatitis case, allows other charges against Las Vegas doctor to stand

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Sam Morris

Dr. Dipak Desai appears in court for a competency hearing Friday, Jan. 27, 2012.

The Nevada Supreme Court has ruled that a racketeering charge against high-profile Las Vegas physician Dipak K. Desai be dismissed, but it permitted prosecution of Desai on other charges involving a hepatitis outbreak at his clinic more than five years ago.

Desai and two employees are accused of reusing syringes and drugs that caused hepatitis C to be transferred to least seven of his patients.

Desai sought to have all of the more than 25 counts dismissed against him.

The court agreed that the Clark County District Attorney’s Office could amend 14 of the counts to eliminate ambiguity, then continue with its prosecution. The counts charged criminal neglect of patients and performance of an act with reckless disregard to persons. Desai also is charged with insurance fraud in overbillings.

Desai and nurse anesthetists Ronald Lakeman are accused re-using syringes and vials of Propofol in endoscopy and colonoscopy procedures in 2007 at his Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada.

Another of Desai’s nurse anesthetists, Keith Mathahs, 76, pleaded guilty earlier this month to five criminal charges, including patient neglect causing death. Mathahs agreed to testify against Desai and Lakeman.

Propofol comes in a vial and is used as an anesthesia. The vials are not to be re-used. But prosecutors say the reuse was to save money and resulted in hepatitis C infections for the patients.

The court in its order Monday said the racketeering count “fails to allege necessary elements and is inadequately pleaded.”

In allowing the district attorney’s office to amend the other counts, the court said allegations list numerous acts taken as principals and aiders and abettors but fail to specifically identify what acts are attributed to each defendant. Therefore, these counts are insufficiently precise as to "who is alleged to have done what."

Desai has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The court said its ruling does not affect a murder indictment against Desai in another case involving the death of Rodolfo Meana, a victim in the outbreak.

The district attorney’s brief to the court said Desai bragged he was worth $150 million-$200 million and was constantly looking to cut costs to save money at his business.

The state Board of Medical Examiners filed an eight-count complaint against Desai in 2008 and he surrendered his license to practice medicine in 2010.

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  1. Any wonder health costs are skyrocketing? Those this guy treated now need much much more testing and care.