Medical examiners board investigating witnesses in Gage trial

It might be little comfort to embattled attorney Noel Gage, but controversial doctors John Thalgott and Benjamin Venger are being investigated by the Nevada Board of Medical Examiners.

Thalgott’s recent testimony in the trial of Gage, who is accused in federal court of depriving clients of “honest services” and other crimes, revealed the veteran spine surgeon to be less than professional. If you’ll excuse the pun, Thalgott admitted he wasn’t above going behind the back of his patient in an effort to worm his way out of a possible lawsuit.

Word is Venger will take the witness stand early next week and will be compelled to admit similarly slippery behavior. Both men have received immunity in exchange for their testimony and damning views of Gage and self-styled medical consultant Howard Awand.

Eventually, the doctors also may have to answer the questions of the Board of Medical Examiners. The board has an investigator monitoring the proceedings in Senior U.S. District Judge Justin Quackenbush’s courtroom, its president, Dr. Javaid Anwar, said.

“The board is very sensitive to these things,” Anwar said. Although inquiries often begin with a patient complaint or a legal action, he added, “the board does not wait to see how the court case turns out because the court case has other things that may be relevant on a civil or criminal level, whereas the board’s investigation may be at a different level.”

Gage, 69, is alleged to have diverted his legal focus to the detriment of client Melodie Simon from Thalgott and Dr. Mark Kabins after a meeting with the spine surgeons and Awand in which they agreed to steer lucrative malpractice work the attorney’s way.

STRONG MEDICINE: Local physician R.D. Prabhu, vindicated two years ago after the U.S. attorney’s office lost its lawsuit alleging he fraudulently billed his pulmonary patients, has won another victory that will not only ease his mind, but his wallet as well.

On Wednesday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Lawrence Leavitt ruled the government owed Prabhu a whopping $542,494 in reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs incurred during the lengthy litigation. Although Prabhu’s attorneys, Samuel Benham and Stan Hunterton, requested approximately $870,000, a judgment against the government of more than a half-million dollars is almost unheard of.

It’s intriguing to note that Prabhu was alleged to have overbilled his patients approximately $147,000 over three years — a fraction of the sum Benham and Hunterton won in fees and costs.

In a Feb. 27, 2006, hearing granting the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, U.S. District Judge Robert C. Jones chastised the government for failing to raise pertinent issues after investigating Prabhu for “half a decade.”

“But in my impression, the question of knowledge (of wrongdoing) is not even close,” Judge Jones observed.

JUDICIAL BOUQUETS: Never let it be said that District Judge Ken Cory lacks a sense of humor.

This week’s column calling for judges to shower their clerks, assistants and bailiffs with praise, flowers and candy after the alleged abuses of Judges Nicholas Del Vecchio and Elizabeth Halverson generated a wide range of response. My favorite came via e-mail from Judge Cory, who, by the way, has a good rapport with his assistants.

“Thanks loads,” he wrote. “My staff informs me they’re now holding out for candy and flowers. Compliments alone will fall short of the mark. How ’bout you give me the name of your secretary and other staff, so I can return the favor?”

I’d like to do that, your honor, but, uh, well, just look at the time. I gotta run.

HEAVENLY HILDA: Hilda West, the sweetheart who owned Hilda’s Restaurant and Living Room Lounge in North Las Vegas, died Tuesday at age 88. Her remarkable food and grandmotherly personality made her restaurant a popular place with working people, politicians, and even some celebrities.

The Nebraska native’s fried bread, baked goods and Mexican food were the stuff of local legend.

DOUBLE OR SOMETHING: This is what I call a book launch party. Former Golden Nugget co-owner Tom Breitling is celebrating the publication of his new book, “Double or Nothing,” at 7 p.m. March 28 at the Red Rock Casino with a concert by Earth, Wind & Fire, with the $49.95 ticket proceeds benefiting the Andre Agassi Foundation.

CLOSE SHAVE: Don’t forget the St. Baldrick’s fundraiser for childhood cancer research March 8 at McMullan’s Irish Pub. Members of Cirque du Soleil will take it all off.

Follicularly speaking, of course.

ON THE BOULEVARD: The untaxed cash figures generated at Pure nightclub are staggering, but how accurate are they? And how far up the ladder did the cash flow?

Have an item for the Bard of the Boulevard? E-mail comments and contributions to or call (702) 383-0295.

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