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October 24, 2014

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Lawsuits seek nearly $16.5 million from family of doctor in hepatitis C case

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

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

The wife and daughters of Dipak Desai, the high-profile physician facing a murder charge in connection with a hepatitis C scare that rocked Southern Nevada about four years ago, are being taken to court by the estate’s bankruptcy trustee — who claims they’ve tucked away close to $16.5 million from creditors.

William A. Leonard Jr., the trustee, has filed two complaints in U.S. Bankruptcy Court against Desai’s wife and daughters.

In one of the lawsuits, Leonard said that by about 2005, Desai transferred substantially all of his property, about $12.85 million, through trusts to his daughters, Amishi Desai, Anjali Desai and Avani Bhambri, to shelter the money from creditors.

In another lawsuit, Leonard alleges that in 2009, Desai’s wife, Dr. Kusum Desai, rolled $3.5 million from her husband’s Gastroenterology Center pension plan into a money purchase plan under her own business, Kusum Desai, M.D. Chartered, “for the purpose of protecting her assets from existing and potential creditors.”

The lawsuit claims that the $3.5 million is community property and can be used in bankruptcy proceedings against Desai and his company.

The lawsuit alleges the money purchase plan doesn’t meet the requirements of the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act and is not protected from the Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings.

The lawsuit is also going after Kusum Desai’s assets valued at $458,1000 in two IRA plans and in a profit-sharing plan.

Dipak Desai and two people working for him have been accused of spreading the hepatitis C virus through unhygienic practices. Thousands of people were potentially exposed to the virus through Desai’s former clinics, leading to numerous civil lawsuits and criminal charges.

In July 2009, Desert Shadow Endoscopy Center, Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada and Gastroenterology Center of Nevada all filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation.

During proceedings in June in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Dipak Desai asserted his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination and would not testify.

Last month, Dipak Desai and two of his former nurses, Keith Mathahs and Ronald Lakeman, pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder in connection with the death of Rodolfo Meana, a patient who contracted hepatitis C at Desai’s clinic.

Meana, 77, died in April due to complications believed to stem from the infection. Judge Stefany Miley has scheduled a status check hearing on that case for Sept. 19.

Dipak Desai and the two nurses, meanwhile, are scheduled to stand trial Oct. 22 on 28 felony charges, which include neglect of patients, insurance fraud and racketeering.

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