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Las Vegas doctor admits guilt in pain meds scheme

A Las Vegas physician charged in an undercover painkiller sting at a hospital parking lot pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday.

Dr. Vinay Bararia, 43, entered a guilty plea before U.S. District Judge Jennifer Dorsey to one count of distributing a controlled substance.

The charge stemmed from a July 20, 2011, drug deal in which Bararia sold 500 hydrocodone pills to undercover federal drug agents in the parking lot of Centennial Hills Hospital.

Bararia, who is in federal custody, was charged in a seven-count indictment in June 2012 with unlawfully possessing and distributing hydrocodone and another painkiller, oxycodone, between July 2011 and March 2012.

As part of his agreement with prosecutors, the other six charges will be dismissed at his March 31 sentencing.

Bararia and his defense lawyers, Kathleen Bliss and Thomas Mesereau, vigorously challenged the government’s conduct during the undercover investigation, which included wiretaps.

They sought to get the charges dismissed, accusing agents among other things of racial insensitivity when they named the case “Operation Slumdog Billionaire.”

The name was a takeoff of the 2009 Academy Award winning film “Slumdog Millionaire.” The movie portrays a young man living in a Mumbai slum trying to win a game show and focuses on flashbacks of his life in the slums.

Bararia, an internist, was born in India.

A federal magistrate criticized the poor choice of words the government used in identifying the investigation, but refused to toss out the case.

Bararia’s indictment was part of an ongoing crackdown by federal authorities on prescription drug trafficking and abuse by those within the medical profession.

Last week another physician, Victor Bruce, was indicted by a federal grand jury on a charge of unlawfully distributing oxycodone and other addictive painkillers.

Bruce, 48, who is free on his own recognizance, is to stand trial Feb. 10.

Prosecutors alleged that Bruce, who represented himself to be a specialist in pain management, worked directly with a street-level drug dealer to distribute the painkillers.

Bruce is alleged to have created “ghost files” of patients, prescribed the painkillers under the phony names and then sold the prescriptions to the drug dealer, who put the painkillers on the streets.

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