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Doctor convicted in outbreak to undergo evaluation

Monday - 4/21/2014, 4:20pm  ET

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- A former Nevada doctor at the center of a 2007 hepatitis C outbreak has been ordered into federal custody for a mental evaluation.

U.S. Senior District Judge Larry Hicks signed the order last week to determine if Dipak Desai is mentally competent to accept a plea deal on federal health care fraud charges.

Desai's lawyers and federal prosecutors signed a stipulation agreeing that the evaluation is appropriate, The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Monday (http://bit.ly/1kTdxEb ).

Desai, 64, surrendered his medical license after the outbreak at his Endoscopy Center of Nevada was exposed in 2008.

He was convicted last year of 27 criminal counts including second-degree murder in state court related to the outbreak. He was sentenced to life in prison with possible parole after 18 years and is incarcerated at Northern Nevada Correctional Center in Carson City.

Ronald Lakeman, a nurse anesthetist and co-defendant in the state proceedings, was acquitted of murder but convicted of 16 counts and sentenced to 21 years in prison.

Desai will return to state custody after the federal mental evaluation is completed, the Review-Journal reported.

Trial for Desai is scheduled in August if no agreement is reached. His former clinic manager is scheduled to stand trial at the same time if she does not accept a plea deal. Desai and the former manager were indicted in April 2011 on federal charges that they defrauded insurers from January 2005 through February 2008 by inflating the length of medical procedures and overbilling health insurance companies for anesthesia.

Questions about Desai's mental health contributed to a two-year delay in the state trial. He spent six months being evaluated at the state's secure mental health facility in Sparks before experts found him competent to stand trial.

The experts concluded he was exaggerating the effects of strokes he suffered before and after the hepatitis outbreak.

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Information from: Las Vegas Review-Journal, http://www.lvrj.com


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