U.S. Attorney's Office Argues Gage/Awand Appeal to Ninth Circuit
Las Vegas, Nev. – Today, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit heard oral arguments in the fraud case against Las Vegas personal injury lawyer Noel Gage and medical consultant Howard Awand, announced Greg Brower, United States Attorney for the District of Nevada. A federal district court judge dismissed the case in June 2008 after the government refused to comply with his order to grant immunity to a doctor who was a target of the investigation. The Government filed an appeal.
"We feel confident in our position that the granting of immunity to a target of a grand jury investigation is generally left to the discretion of the Government," said U.S. Attorney Brower. "We believe the trial court judge's ruling with respect to Dr. Kabins was erroneous and contrary to the overwhelming weight of case law precedent."
Federal criminal fraud and conspiracy charges were filed against Gage and Awand in 2007. The two men were accused of being part of a network of Las Vegas physicians and lawyers who cheated clients out of honest services. Gage and his co-conspirators allegedly inflated medical costs, protected doctors from malpractice lawsuits and shared kickbacks from legal settlements. The trial against Gage began in February 2008 and lasted for three weeks. The jury deliberated for one week before determining it could not reach a conclusion. During trial, the government presented evidence that Dr. Mark Kabins, an orthopedic spine surgeon in Las Vegas, allegedly participated with Gage and Awand in a conspiracy and scheme to defraud one of Dr. Kabins' patients; however, at that time, Kabins had not been charged with a crime. In June 2008, Senior U.S. District Judge Justin Quackenbush dismissed the case, finding that it was unfair the government offered immunity to two other doctors accused of being involved in the conspiracy, but not to Dr. Kabins, whose testimony was expected to contradict government witnesses. The Government refused to grant immunity on the basis that Dr. Kabins was a defense witness who was an unindicted co-conspirator and a target of the ongoing investigation. In March 2009, Dr. Kabins was charged with fraud and conspiracy for his alleged role in the scheme.
An audio file of today's hearing is available on the Ninth Circuit's website, http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/media/.