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Man who practiced medicine without license could face murder charge

A judge set bail at $1 million Wednesday for an alleged phony doctor after prosecutors said they were considering a murder charge against him.

Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Ann Zimmerman said she considered Rick Van Thiel, 52, a danger to the community after listening to prosecutor Marc DiGiacomo describe the allegations.

Van Thiel had 87 so-called “patients” he kept records on, the prosecutor said, and one of them was a young man who died of AIDS.

DiGiacomo said he intended to seek a second-degree murder charge for Van Thiel’s “reckless disregard.”

The prosecutor is also pursuing sexual assault charges against Van Thiel. In September, a woman who had an abortion had gone to Van Thiel and he performed sexual acts on her, DiGiacomo said.

In a jail interview last week, Van Thiel said he treated people for cancer and HIV, among other serious diseases.

He already faces several felony charges including acting as a medical practitioner without a license, possession of drugs and issuing drugs without a prescription.

Authorities continue to investigate Van Thiel’s practice, which was based in a residence at 4928 E. Monroe Ave., near the intersection of Owens Avenue and Nellis Boulevard.

The practice was shut down Sept. 30, the same day Las Vegas police and FBI agents executed a search warrant on the property.

Among 140 confiscated items: computers, hard drives and “media storage devices,” according to arrest records. Black market steroids, blood thinning drugs, and bags containing something that looked like blood also were seized.

The Clark County coroner’s office said non-human remains were found at the residence.

Much of that has been sent off for FBI analysis.

Van Thiel was arrested Oct. 7. He’s being held at Clark County Detention Center.

Craigslist advertisements for his medical services were posted in Nevada, Arizona and Utah, according to the arrest record. He was sometimes referred to as “Dr. Rick.”

He does not have a medical license.

But Van Thiel says his work shouldn’t be regulated by the government. He contends he’s studied health and anatomy for 28 years and only treats people who consent.

The FBI is investigating Van Thiel’s ties to the so-called sovereign citizens movement. Its members declare themselves above federal jurisdiction. They don’t believe they should pay taxes and are known for filing frivolous lawsuits against public officials. Authorities say an increasing number of violent acts in recent years can be attributed to sovereign citizens.

Online ads calling Van Thiel “Rick Spindoll” pushed pornographic movies, sex toys and escort and massage services. Van Thiel said in an interview with the Review-Journal that he was in porn production before being sentenced to four years in prison on a 2007 battery charge.

Someone stole all the footage and equipment, he said, and after that he decided to go into the medical field.

The Southern Nevada Health District is assessing public health risks to determine whether environmental or clinical testing is needed.

Anyone who received services at the Monroe Avenue facility can call 1-800-506-1435 or report online at www.fbi.gov. Information obtained as part of this investigation will be handled in accordance with medical privacy laws, investigating agencies said.

Contact reporter David Ferrara at dferrara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039. Find him on Twitter: @randompoker

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