A North Las Vegas man was arrested last week after being accused of posing as a doctor, sedating victims and then assaulting them when they were unconscious.
Juan Alberto Ruan-Rivera, 44, claimed to be a doctor, chiropractor or therapist licensed in Mexico, North Las Vegas police said.
Police have recommended several sexual assault charges against Ruan-Rivera and identified three victims: a 51-year-old North Las Vegas woman, a 27-year-old Victorville, Calif., woman and a 5-year-old Las Vegas boy. Police said the assaults took place in Ruan-Rivera's home in North Las Vegas.
All the victims were Hispanics without health insurance suffering from various illnesses, police said.
Ruan-Rivera was initially booked at North Las Vegas Detention Center on Feb. 13 in connection with an unrelated domestic battery charge.
The sexual assault charges were added on Feb. 17 after people came forward with their statements.
Since 2006, police said, Ruan-Rivera has spent time in Blythe, Chula Vista and Victorville in Southern California; Anchorage, Alaska; Texas; and Southern Nevada.
Ruan-Rivera also said he was a distributor for Omnilife Natural Supplements, police said.
"We have great concern that there are potentially more victims out there," Sgt. Tim Bedwell said.
The action of fake doctors and nurses isn't simply "unlicensed medical care," said Doug Cooper, executive director of the Nevada State Medical Board. "These are criminals committing assault and battery."
Those who do outreach in the Hispanic community have become increasingly concerned about unlicensed practitioners preying on Latinos.
In April, 42-year-old Elena Caro died after a botched buttocks enhancement surgery at the hands of two fake Colombian doctors.
Ruben Dario Matallana-Galvas, 56, and Carmen Olfidia Torres-Sanchez, 47, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and practicing medicine without a license. They were sentenced to four years and two months to eight years in prison.
So-called "botanicas" have cropped up in Hispanic communities throughout the valley in the past few years. Although they typically are advertised as natural or herbal medicine shops, they often harbor unlicensed practitioners and dispense medical advice and drugs not legally available in the United States without a prescription.
"It's very dangerous," said Emilia Guenechea, coordinator of the Ventanillas de Salud -- Windows of Health -- program at the Mexican Consulate in Las Vegas. "We need people to understand that just because people are in white coats doesn't mean they are doctors."
Some Hispanics fall victim to fake doctors because they aren't familiar with the U.S. health system, don't know how to find out if a practitioner has a license and "why it's important to ask that," Guenechea said.
Patients who don't speak English may look for clinics where Spanish is spoken, assuming any practitioners there are licensed, she said.
People can check whether a physician or nurse is licensed by looking at the websites of the Nevada State Board of Osteopathic Medicine, Board of Medical Examiners or State Board of Nursing.
"Then you can ask the person who wants to sell you treatment how come he or she isn't licensed?" Cooper said. "People need to arm themselves with information. It doesn't cost anything."
Guenechea works to educate Hispanics about such dangers and provides referrals to licensed, Spanish-speaking doctors.
She is hosting a health fair at the consulate in April where people can mingle with local doctors and ask questions.
"We are trying to make the community more comfortable," she said.
Legislators in February approved $47,000 to launch a public relations campaign by the state Health Division to warn Hispanics about the dangers of using unlicensed medical personnel.
The division is partnering with University of Nevada, Reno's Latino Research Center on the statewide campaign, called ¡No a los médicos clandestinos! -- No to fake doctors!
The campaign will include public service announcements on Spanish-speaking television and radio stations and a series of town hall meetings beginning at the end of March.
It also will work to reassure undocumented Hispanics, who may be hesitant to report unlicensed practitioners for fear of deportation.
"Part of it is trying to persuade people to come forward and they won't get in trouble," said Drew Bradley outreach coordinator for the Latino Research Center.
Potential victims or witnesses involved with Ruan-Rivera were asked to contact North Las Vegas police at 702-633-9111 or Crime Stoppers at 385-5555.
Review-Journal reporter Paul Harasim contributed to this report. Contact reporter Mike Blasky at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0283. Contact reporter Lynnette Curtis at email@example.com or 702-383-0285.