LAS VEGAS (AP) - A former physician and owner of a Las Vegas clinic and two former employees were indicted Friday on second-degree murder charges in the death of a man whose incurable hepatitis C was traced to an outpatient procedure nearly five years ago.
Dipak Desai and former nurse-anesthetists Ronald Lakeman and Keith Mathahs are accused of recklessness and causing the death of Rodolfo Meana. Each is due for arraignment Aug. 22 in Clark County District Court.
Meana was one of seven patients who prosecutors allege were infected through the reuse of vials of an injected anesthetic, propofol, during outpatient procedures. He died April 27 in the Philippines at age 77.
Prosecutor Michael Staudaher said Meana's hepatitis C was genetically traced to a Sept. 21, 2007, procedure at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada.
The indictment, on a charge that carries a possible sentence of 10 years to life in prison, is separate from a June 2010 indictment against Desai, Lakeman and Mathahs on 28 felony charges. Those charges include racketeering, reckless disregard, criminal neglect of patients, theft, insurance fraud and obtaining money under false pretenses. Trial in that case is set to begin in October.
Attorneys for Desai didn't immediately respond to messages. Lakeman's lawyer, Frederick Santacroce, said he had not yet seen the indictment and declined to comment.
Mathahs' attorney, Michael Cristalli, expressed frustration that his 76-year-old client is being prosecuted while other clinic employees are not. He noted that his challenge of the June 2010 indictment is pending before the Nevada Supreme Court.
Both cases stem from a public health scare that affected thousands of people and spawned dozens of lawsuits along with state and federal criminal cases.
Southern Nevada Health District officials in February 2008 began notifying more than 50,000 Desai patients to be tested for hepatitis and HIV. Authorities later determined that nine people contracted hepatitis C, a degenerative liver disease. Cases involving another 105 patients were not conclusively linked to the clinics.
Desai, 62, once was a prominent Las Vegas physician and head of the investigative committee of the Nevada state Board of Medical Examiners. He has since suffered strokes and other physical ailments and declared bankruptcy. His lawyers this year lost a long fight to have him declared mentally and physically unfit for trial.
Prosecutors allege that Desai pinched pennies so much at his clinics that patients were endangered and infected with incurable hepatitis C. Staudaher alleges Desai is faking his medical conditions in an attempt to escape prosecution.