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Las Vegas doctor, 93, gets 10-year prison term in drug case

Updated August 1, 2017 - 6:14 pm

A 93-year-old Las Vegas pain management practitioner was sentenced Tuesday to a decade in prison after supplying scores of drug addicts and dealers with powerful opioids for no real medical purpose and laundering his profits.

The doctor, Henri Wetselaar, is one of the oldest defendants ever to be sentenced in the federal criminal justice system, according to a sentencing memorandum filed last week by his attorney, Jeffrey Setness.

Senior U.S. District Judge Kent Dawson imposed the prison term and fined the doctor, a Netherlands-born World War II veteran, $2.5 million.

Wetselaar’s age and poor medical condition were the main reasons the defense gave for requesting five years of home confinement. The doctor suffers from ailments that include prostate cancer, chronic renal failure, multiple heart valve disorders and brain atrophy.

Throughout the court process, Wetselaar’s failing health caused several trial delays as he was in and out of the hospital.

Prosecutors asked for a 20-year prison sentence.

“Wetselaar’s behavior was far from that of a doctor,” prosecutors wrote in a separate sentencing memorandum filed last week. “Rather he was an individual who cared little for the health and well-being of his patients.”

Throughout his 10-week trial, Wetselaar worked to convince jurors that his behavior reflected his age and outdated medical education instead of a profitable conspiracy to distribute painkillers.

But in less than one day, the jury convicted him of all 11 drug, money laundering and related counts contained in a 2011 indictment against him. His medical assistant and a local pharmacist also were charged in the case.

According to the indictment, Wetselaar prescribed large amounts of drugs — including oxycodone, hydrocodone, Xanax and Soma — to more than 230 people who did not medically need them.

The doctor also wired $105,000 collected from the drug distribution scheme to buy a home and made dozens of cash deposits over the course of a year to three banks in an attempt to evade bank-reporting requirements.

Prosecutors stressed in their sentencing memorandum that Wetselaar had not accepted responsibility or showed remorse, noting that, before the doctor’s indictment, he was “put on notice” after multiple patients to whom he had prescribed painkillers had died.

“Instead of stopping his prescriptions-for-cash scheme at that point, or revising his prescribing habits, or making any effort whatsoever to determine if he was the cause of these deaths, Wetselaar persisted in his drug dealing,” the memorandum continued.

The judge previously declared a mistrial in the case against the pharmacist, Jason Smith, after jurors failed to return a verdict on one count of conspiracy to distribute oxycodone.

Wetselaar’s medical assistant, David Litwin, who was convicted of eight drug counts for his involvement in the conspiracy, is to be sentenced Sept. 5.

Contact Rachel Crosby at rcrosby@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-8135. Follow @rachelacrosby on Twitter.

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