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Las Vegas doctor convicted in drug case wants gold coins back

Updated April 19, 2017 - 10:46 pm

A 93-year-old doctor and his medical assistant — who both were convicted last month of running an illegal prescription pill mill — are seeking the return of dozens of gold coins and roughly $50,000 in bonds the government seized from them.

Dr. Henri Wetselaar is a frail World War II veteran who was cheerful throughout his trial but snippy on the witness stand when prosecutors questioned him about his crimes. He and medical assistant David Litwin were taken into custody immediately after their March 23 convictions on drug conspiracy charges.

In a motion filed after the convictions, lawyers for Wetselaar and Litwin requested the return of roughly 70 pieces of property seized during the federal investigation. The government previously sought an order to force the men to forfeit the items — which include coins from across the world, U.S. savings bonds, and a house in Las Vegas.

The filing lists more than 100 coins, all of which appear to be collector items, that provide a snapshot of the several countries where Wetselaar lived over the past eight decades.

A former resistance fighter during German occupation of the Netherlands, Wetselaar’s coin collection features Dutch, Austrian and Polish coins — and a single “Nazi” coin. It also includes Vancouver coins, presumably from his stint in Canada, and over a dozen American collectibles.

Legal filings do not disclose the value of the coin collection. But it also includes items — such as four Vienna Philharmonics, a 1984 Gold Olympiad and a Martha Washington gold coin — that collectively could be worth thousands.

Defense attorneys Jeffrey Setness and Jonathan Powell argued in their motion that the property should be returned because the court did not determine, before jury deliberations, whether jurors should be tasked with deciding whether the property should be forfeited.

The government, in its response to the defense motion, accused Setness and Powell of trying to snooker them into returning the property by deliberately failing to raise the issue until after the conviction.

“If the defendants wanted the jury to decide forfeiture, they would have asked this Court for the jury to decide the forfeiture since the government gave everyone notice of that privilege,” Acting U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre and Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Hollingsworth wrote in a filing this month.

“They strategically, knowingly, voluntarily, and intellectually sat on their privilege, did not invoke the privilege, waited … believing they could obtain the return of the specific assets,” federal prosecutors wrote.

Prosecutors asked the judge to rule on forefeiture, citing potential legal problems with calling jurors back into court weeks after they returned a verdict on the criminal allegations.

In convicting Wetselaar and Litwin, jurors concluded that the two men sent large doses of powerful opioid painkillers onto the streets.

The jury agreed with the government’s assertion that Wetselaar was writing prescriptions for scores of phony patients who came to him with complaints of back pain. The patients took the prescriptions to drug dealers who sold them on the streets. Sometimes, testimony at trial revealed, Wetselaar and Litwin saw patients out of a drug dealer’s dining room.

Federal investigators estimated that Wetselaar earned $260,000 in one year off the scheme. He used some of the criminal proceeds to buy a house.

Wetselaar and Litwin are scheduled to be sentenced in June.

Contact Jenny Wilson at jenwilson@reviewjournal.com or 702-384-8710. Follow @jennydwilson on Twitter.

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