Case against Vegas drug-dealing doctors revealed

A year ago, as Las Vegas physician Victor Bruce pleaded guilty to trafficking in prescription painkillers, U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden said four more unidentified doctors were targeted in a wide-ranging investigation.

Since then one doctor, Kent Swaine, 50, lost his license and was sentenced to five years of probation for fraudulently obtaining controlled substances for his own addiction by posing as one of his dead patients.

And the name of another doctor, pain specialist Daniel Batlan, has surfaced in court documents.

Bruce, 50, is now serving a 46-month sentence in a federal prison in California, and several other co-defendants involved in his drug distribution ring have pleaded guilty and are waiting to be sentenced.

Bogden said the overwhelming majority of Southern Nevada physicians are committed to the well-being of their patients, but his office is "equally committed" to prosecuting physicians who are not.

"Physicians have an ethical and professional responsibility to care for the patients they treat," Bogden said. "When they stop rendering care, and act as no more than a drug dealer with a lab coat, they are doing this community tremendous harm."

Bogden said he‘s pleased with the progress federal, state and local investigators have made in the past year and promises more action "to put illegal pill-pusher doctors in prison and out of business."€

The United States is in the middle of a prescription painkiller overdose epidemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

"Since 1999, the amount of prescription painkillers prescribed and sold in the U.S. has nearly quadrupled, yet there has not been an overall change in the amount of pain that Americans report," the CDC says on its website. "Over-prescribing leads to more abuse and more overdose deaths."

Doctors who push pain medication on the streets give rise to still more abuse, according to authorities.

Bruce was accused of creating "ghost files" of patients at his pain management clinic, prescribing oxycodone under the phony names and selling the prescriptions to a street dealer identified as Robert Wolfe.

The 70-year-old Wolfe, known as the "old man," once claimed he had as many as 3,000 patients going to Bruce‘s office for oxycodone prescriptions. He was able to strike relationships with Bruce‘s staff to keep the prescriptions flowing.

Details of the investigation were revealed in a criminal complaint seeking the arrests of Wolfe and five associates in September 2013. The complaint is now sealed, but the Las Vegas Review-Journal obtained a copy from the electronic court filing system while it was public.

The complaint revealed that federal task force agents were able to infiltrate Wolfe‘s drug-trafficking organization and buy prescriptions in their undercover names on several occasions in 2013. The agents received help in the investigation from confidential sources.

Several doctors, including Bruce, were providing oxycodone prescriptions to the organization, which also had a local pharmacy in its fold, the complaint alleged.

During some undercover transactions Batlan was identified as the physician who prescribed the oxycodone, according to the complaint and recent plea agreements for at least two of Wolfe‘s associates arrested in September 2013. Batlan has not been charged.

Following a March 20, 2013, transaction with suspected Wolfe associate Millicent Epino, undercover officers had a pharmacist review the prescriptions, the complaint said.

"The written prescriptions were consistent with those previously obtained from Epino," the complaint alleged. "The listed prescribing physician was Dr. Daniel Batlan."

In the presence of the agents, the pharmacist called Batlan‘s office and during a conversation with a female employee "questioned the validity" of two of the four prescriptions written in the undercover officers‘ names, according to the complaint. The woman "verified the prescriptions were valid," and the pharmacist then filled them for the agents.

The conversation was secretly recorded for "evidentiary purposes," the complaint said.

Epino told undercover officers that she made arrangements for local doctors to write prescriptions for oxycodone to patients they never saw, the complaint alleged. She said all she needed was a valid driver‘s license or other identification.

The complaint and the other court documents do not provide additional new details about Batlan‘s connection to the case, and Bogden said Justice Department regulations prohibit him from confirming or denying whether Batlan is under investigation.

Batlan, who runs several pain management clinics in the Las Vegas Valley, said he knows nothing about the federal investigation.

"This is news to me," Batlan said. "That is not the activity I would ever become involved with."

Batlan would not answer questions, but said he runs a "clean" operation and is "extremely careful with pain medications." He also said he probably has the "most outstanding credentials" of any doctor in the state.

Records on file with the Nevada Board of Medical Examiners show Batlan was licensed in February 2000 and has no disciplinary actions against him.

Wolfe and four associates charged in the drug distribution ring have pleaded guilty in the past year. Epino has been charged but has not struck a plea deal.

Wolfe secretly entered his guilty plea in March and is cooperating with the FBI and Las Vegas police in a spinoff investigation into allegations his former lawyer tried to help him flee the country during the painkiller investigation. The lawyer, Ben Nadig, has denied wrongdoing.

Investigators have been tight-lipped about the Nadig investigation, as Wolfe prepares to be sentenced behind closed doors. His plea deal is under seal.

Contact Jeff German at or 702-380-8135. Follow @JGermanRJ on Twitter.

Tate Elementary shows academic progress after categorical funding
Students at Tate Elementary in Las Vegas has benefited from a program to boost education funding in targeted student populations, known as categorical funding. One program called Zoom helps students who have fallen below grade level in reading. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Three Square helps TSA workers
Three Square Food Bank donated over 400 care bags to TSA workers affected by the government shutdown Wednesday, filled with food, personal hygiene products and water.
Las Vegas furniture store donates to Clark County firehouses
Walker Furniture donated new mattresses to all 30 Clark County firehouses in the Las Vegas Valley, starting today with Station 22. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Mount Charleston Gets Heavy Snow, Fog
Mount Charleston saw heavy snow today, and fog in lower elevations as a cold front swept across the Las Vegas Valley. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Krystal Whipple arrested in Arizona
Krystal Whipple, charged in the killing of a Las Vegas nail salon manager over a $35 manicure, is expected to return to Nevada to face a murder charge.
Holocaust survivor on acceptance
Holocaust survivor Celina Karp Biniaz, who was the youngest person on Schindler’s List, talks about the most important message for people to understand from her life and experiences.
Holocaust survivor speaks about telling her story
Holocaust survivor Celina Karp Biniaz, who was the youngest person on Schindler’s List, tells of opening up about her experiences during Sunday’s event at Temple Sinai.
Jesus Jara State of the Schools address
Clark County School District Superintendent Jesus Jara delivers his State of the Schools address on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. (Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Michael Naft sworn in to Clark County Commission
Michael Naft, chosen by Gov. Steve Sisolak to be his replacement on the Clark County Commission, was sworn into office on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES Opening Party in Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace
CES conventioneers packed Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace, and let loose as they danced to DJs into the night. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas police piecing together details of fatal shooting
Six hours after the fact, Las Vegas homicide detectives worked to reconstruct the scene of a shooting early Jan. 7 that left one man dead in the southeast valley. (Rio Lacanlale/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dyer Lawrence explains college football playoff system proposal
Las Vegan Dyer Lawrence has a new idea for a college football playoff system that includes a unique scheduling component called National Call Out Day. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Death row inmate Scott Dozier found dead in his cell
Nevada death row inmate Scott Dozier is dead. Dozier’s death ends his legal odyssey, which began in 2007 when he was convicted in the 2002 murder of Jeremiah Miller, but does little to clarify what’s next for Nevada’s death penalty.
I-15 southbound near Primm closed after ‘major crash’
A rollover crash Saturday morning involving at least nine vehicles on southbound Interstate 15 near Primm caused an hourslong traffic delay. Traffic was backed up to Sloan, live traffic cameras show. (Rio Lacanlale/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Death Valley visitors deal with shutdown
Visitors staying at the Furnace Creek Campground were forced to move from the campground following health and safety concerns due to lack of resources during the partial government shutdown at Death Valley National Park in Calif., on Friday, Jan. 4, 2019. Richard Brian Las Vegas Review-Journal @vegasphotograph
Half of homicides in Henderson for 2018 domestic violence related
Lt. Kirk Moore of the public information office of the city of Henderson police department speaks to the Review-Journal in Henderson, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019. Henderson saw a slight increase in homicides in the past year. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Governor-elect Steve Sisolak stops by Las Vegas Boys and Girls Club
Governor-elect Steve Sisolak kicks off his tour to Carson City, which will take him from Las Vegas, through Tonopah, and up to the capital city. First stop is the Downtown Boys & Girls Club.
Certificates for renewing wedding vows in Clark County
The Marriage License Bureau in Clark County began issuing a Certificate of Vow Renewal to married couples who are renewing their wedding vows on Jan. 3, 2019. (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas flu season better than last year (so far)
Dr. Fermin Leguen, chief medical officer and director of clinical services at the Southern Nevada Health District, said there were 24 flu-related deaths at this point in the flu season. No deaths have been reported so far this year. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
The Las Vegas Valley’s First Baby of 2019
The first 2019 baby in the Las Vegas Valley was Melialani Chihiro Manning, born at 12:10 a.m. at Henderson Hospital. (Briana Erickson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas NYE Fireworks - VIDEO
The full show: A spectacular view from the rooftop of the Trump International Hotel as 80,000 pyrotechnics illuminated the Las Vegas Strip at the stroke of midnight. Fireworks by Grucci choreographed launches from the Stratosphere, the Venetian, Treasure Island, Caesars Palace, Planet Hollywood, Aria and MGM Grand.
Snow in Henderson on New Year's Eve morning
Light snow flurries in Anthem Highlands in Henderson on Monday morning, the last day of 2018.
Sources: Henderson Constable may face more charges
Henderson Constable Earl Mitchell may face additional charges ... stemming from his spending of county funds, sources said. Mitchell was indicted earlier this month on five felony theft and fraud charges ... after a Las Vegas Review-Journal story questioned his spending. But grand jury records show even more extensive spending including ... an $800 dinner at steakhouse ... nearly 200 atm withdrawals mostly at gambling establishments ... and even Disneyland tickets. But his attorney plans to ask a judge to dismiss the charges.
Las Vegas NYE Restrictions and Enhanced Security
If you are planning to celebrate New Year's Eve on the Las Vegas Strip or Fremont Street, be aware that you are not allowed to bring backpacks, coolers, strollers or glass. There will also be an increase in security to ensure safe celebrations across town.
Catholic Charities serves up 53rd annual Christmas dinner
Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada and more than 100 volunteers served 1,000 Christmas meals to Southern Nevada's homeless and less fortunate. (K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal @kmcannonphoto)
Henderson couple adds another school to their generosity
Bob and Sandy Ellis of Henderson, who donate to several Clark County School District schools, have added Matt Kelly Elementary in Las Vegas to their list of schools where every student gets new shoes, socks and a toy. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jeffrey Martin Added To Nevada's Black Book
Martin was one of four men convicted of theft and cheating at gambling in 2016 in Clark County District Court and sentenced to prison. The Nevada Gaming Commission voted unanimously Thursday to include Martin in the black book.
Raiders Stadium Timelapse
Construction on the new Raiders stadium continues in Las Vegas.
Buffalo Wild Wings security video
Security footage from a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant in southwest Las Vegas captured a driver who repeatedly crashed into a vehicle in a failed attempt to squeeze into a tight parking spot.
The Magical Forest at Opportunity Village
Opportunity Village's Magical Forest added 1 million lights and a synchronized music show visible from all over the forest this year. The holiday attraction, which began in 1991, has a train, rides, food and entertainment along with the light displays. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like