Local Spine Surgeon Pleads Guilty to Misprision of Felony
|U.S. Attorney’s Office November 23, 2009|
LAS VEGAS—Las Vegas orthopedic spine surgeon Mark B. Kabins, M.D. pleaded guilty today to concealing a fraud committed by his co-defendants, local lawyer Noel Gage and medical consultant Howard Awand, announced Daniel G. Bogden, United States Attorney for the District of Nevada.
"In this plea agreement, Dr. Kabins acknowledged that he used Awand to corruptly influence Gage not to sue him, and that he concealed the crime that Awand and Gage thereafter committed,” said U.S. Attorney Bogden. “The Department of Justice will prosecute those who intentionally and actively seek to conceal criminal offenses from law enforcement."
Dr. Kabins, 49, entered his plea of guilty to one count of misprision of felony before Senior U.S. District Judge Justin L. Quackenbush. Under federal law, in order to prove that person has committed misprision of a felony, prosecutors must show that a defendant knew that another person committed a felony and did not as soon as possible notify appropriate authorities about the crime.
The terms of the plea agreement call for Dr. Kabins to be sentenced to five years' probation, six months of home detention, 250 hours of community service, and require that he pay $3.5 million in restitution to victim Melodie Simon. Dr. Kabins could also receive a fine of up to $250,000 under the plea agreement. The plea agreement is binding, meaning that if the court does not accept the agreement, Dr. Kabins may withdraw his guilty plea, providing he does not commit perjury or obstruct justice, fail to appear at future court hearings, or violate any conditions of his pretrial release.
Gage and Awand were charged with conspiracy and fraud in 2007. The men are accused of being part of a network of Las Vegas physicians and lawyers who cheated clients out of honest services by, among other things, protecting doctors from malpractice lawsuits and sharing kickbacks from legal settlements. In March 2009, Dr. Kabins was charged with fraud and conspiracy for his alleged role in the scheme.
In pleading guilty, Dr. Kabins admitted that on August 3, 2000, in Las Vegas, he assisted another orthopedic surgeon, John Thalgott, M.D. in performing spine surgery on patient Melodie Simon. Simon became paralyzed from complications that arose after the surgery. Dr. Kabins knew that experts could say that he fell below the standard of care in his treatment of Simon, and that he could be sued. To avoid being sued, Dr. Kabins asked Howard Awand, a medical consultant who referred personal injury cases to him and other lawyers, to persuade Simon’s attorney, Noel Gage, not to sue him and Dr. Thalgott. Dr. Kabins believed that Awand would corruptly attempt to persuade Gage by referring lucrative personal injury cases to Gage. After receiving referrals from Awand, Gage chose not to sue Dr. Kabins or Dr. Thalgott. Instead, he sued an anesthesiologist. Dr. Kabins believed that Gage did not sue him because Awand had referred cases to him. To help Gage sue the anesthesiologist, Dr. Kabins drafted a “Letter of Complaint” from which he intentionally omitted information about his secret dealings with Gage and information about Simon’s medical condition following her surgery.
Dr. Kabins is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Quackenbush on January 15, 2010, at 1:00 p.m. Trial in the fraud case against Gage and Awand is scheduled to begin on February 8, 2010.
The case is being investigated by the FBI, IRS Criminal Investigation, and the Nevada Attorney General’s Office, and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Steven W. Myhre and Daniel R. Schiess.