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Dipak Desai sentenced to life in Las Vegas hepatitis C case

1:10 PM, Oct 24, 2013   |    comments
In this Jan. 267, 2012 file photo, Dr. Dipak Desai is shown during his competency hearing at Regional Justice Center in Las Vegas. Neither Desai, the former owner of clinics blamed for a 2007 Las Vegas hepatitis C outbreak nor a former employee took the witness stand before the defense rested in their state trial on criminal charges that could get them decades in prison if they’re convicted.(AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal, Jeff Scheid, File)
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LAS VEGAS (AP) - A former Las Vegas endoscopy clinic owner was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 18 years, following his criminal convictions in a 2007 hepatitis C outbreak believed to be one of the largest in the U.S.

Clark County District Court Judge Valerie Adair sentenced Dipak Desai, 63, on Thursday. The former state medical board member was found guilty in July of 27 criminal charges, including second-degree murder, in a viral outbreak that officials traced to his clinics.

Desai was convicted in the death of 77-year-old Rodolfo Meana in April 2012, and authorities have since reported the death of a second infected person in the case.

Lawyer Ed Bernstein said his 73-year-old client, Michael Washington, died Aug. 23 in Dallas of complications from the incurable liver disease. Prosecutors haven't decided whether to press additional murder charges, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Former nurse-anesthetist Ronald Lakeman, 66, was also sentenced Thursday to seven to 21 years in prison, according to the Review-Journal. He was spared a murder conviction in Meana's death, but found guilty of 16 charges including insurance fraud, criminal neglect, reckless disregard, obtaining money under false pretenses and theft.

Prosecutors contended that Desai created a penny-pinching work environment at the Endoscopy Clinic of Southern Nevada, emphasizing profits over patient safety and leading to unsafe clinic and injection practices that spread the blood-borne virus.

The outbreak was believed to be the nation's largest when it became public in February 2008. The Southern Nevada Health District notified 63,000 former clinic patients to get tested for potentially fatal blood-borne diseases, including hepatitis and HIV.

Investigators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta later determined nine people had contracted incurable hepatitis C at two Desai clinics. Authorities later said hepatitis C infections of another 105 patients might have been related.

Keith Mathahs, 77, a former Desai clinic nurse anesthetist who treated Washington, is due for sentencing Oct. 31.

Mathahs pleaded guilty last December to five felonies, including criminal neglect of patients resulting in death, insurance fraud and racketeering. He testified against Desai and Lakeman and could get probation or up to six years in state prison.