Ex-clinic chief of clinic blamed in 2007 Las Vegas hepatitis C case to get federal prison time

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LAS VEGAS — The former business chief of a Las Vegas medical clinic linked to a 2007 hepatitis C outbreak has been sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud.

Tonya Rushing apologized Monday to Senior U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks, who also sentenced her to two years of supervised release after prison and ordered her to perform 150 hours of community service.

Rushing, 47, also was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine, $50,000 in restitution and forfeit some $8.1 million, U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden said.

Twenty-five charges were dismissed as part of a plea deal reached before Rushing pleaded guilty last July. She could have faced up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

"She's happy with the sentence," Draskovich said Tuesday.

The lawyer noted that Rushing, former chief executive at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada, cooperated with the government and testified in a patient harm prosecution of former physician and clinic owner Dipak Kantilal Desai.

Desai, 65, a once-prominent doctor and member of the Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners who bragged about the efficiency of his clinics, is serving 18 years to life in state prison after being convicted at trial of murder and other charges in a hepatitis outbreak called one of the largest ever in the U.S.

Desai pleaded guilty last month before trial to federal health care fraud and conspiracy charges. He's due for sentencing July 9 in the federal case.

Desai once oversaw a southern Nevada medical empire where procedures were rushed to save time. Protective gowns, devices and vials of anesthesia were reused to save pennies, and bills to insurance companies were inflated to reap millions of dollars. A state prosecutor said clinic staff was even told to limit the amount of lubricating jelly they used during procedures.

The outbreak became public in February 2008, when health officials notified 63,000 former Desai clinic patients to get tested for potentially fatal blood-borne diseases, including hepatitis and HIV.

Health investigators eventually linked at least nine and as many as 114 hepatitis C cases to Desai clinics in and around Las Vegas.

Bogden said that from 2005 to 2008, Desai and Rushing conspired to overcharge Medicare, Medicaid and other private health insurance companies at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada by significantly overstating the amount of time of patient procedures.

The two also created a separate company, Healthcare Business Solutions, owned by Rushing, to handle the billing for the anesthesia services.

The plea agreement states that Rushing received approximately $1.3 million as her share the inflated anesthesia bills.

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