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LAS VEGAS -- A far reaching federal investigation into a criminal conspiracy involving local doctors and lawyers is alive after all. The 8 News NOW I-Team has learned that the FBI investigation into a group known as the "Medical Mafia" has entered a new stage.
A grand jury is ready to hear new testimony. The I-Team has followed the investigation since it began almost seven years ago and is here with the new developments. Reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated, which is what the I-Team reported months ago when the last of the three original defendants was sentenced.
Federal authorities originally issued subpoenas to more than two dozen local physicians and attorneys suspected of participating in a conspiracy that squeezed hundreds of millions of dollars out of injury patients, legal clients, and insurance companies, but only three indictments were ever handed down.
Lawyer Noel Gage, doctor Mark Kabins and so-called medical fixer Howard Awand were charged with numerous felonies. Each plead guilty to a single count, and it was assumed by many that was the end of it. But an innocuous sounding motion filed by the U.S. Attorney seeks a special deposition of Howard Awand to be held next week, presumably to ask Awand about his financial status. But one line in the motion dropped a tantalizing clue, noting that Awand will appear elsewhere in "a separate matter'.
The I-Team has confirmed that the separate matter is an appearance before a federal grand jury to answer questions about the "Medical Mafia." Los Angeles attorney Harland Braun confirmed to the I-Team that Awand has been subpoenaed by the grand jury. Braun added "there is nothing he will say that can help (the U.S. Attorney). He's already told them what he knows." Braun says the feds don't have much leverage to force Awand to say more since he is already serving a prison sentence for tax charges. He characterized the subpoena as "somewhat obsessive."
The I-Team asked the U.S. Attorneys office about it but by law they can't answer questions about grand jury matters. They would only confirm what is in the motion -- that Awand will be here to be deposed about his finances. The I-Team also asked attorney George Kelesis, who represents two of the government's key witnesses, whether the grand jury is gearing up to go after other targets. He said, "I cannot comment at this time."
Sources familiar with the ongoing investigation told the I-Team there is plenty that Awand could say which could lead to new indictments. Because a visiting federal judge threw out most of the charges against the three original targets, most of the evidence collected by the FBIi over six years has never been heard in court. Sworn statements provided by key witnesses in the case allege that Awand participated directly in manipulating witnesses, orchestrating cases, and in directing large sums to the campaigns of at least five local judges who were viewed as friendly to the "Medical Mafia" conspirators. At least one local attorney Robert Vannah was recorded on audio bragging of his influence with judges based on contributions he made.
Howard Awand hosted lavish fundraising parties for judges at which local doctors and lawyers contributed large sums of money. Awand could be asked about all of that and a lot more.
Although Awand, Noel Gage, and Dr. Kabins were given a deal where no other charges would be filed regarding the matters they plead to, prosecutors could use the threat of new charges to gain their cooperation against other, larger targets, in a case that is far from over.