Local man sentenced to prison for phony stem cell case

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Local man sentenced to prison for phony stem cell case

By Krista Hostetler. CREATED Sep 24, 2013

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- A man who conspired with a now-deceased Henderson pediatrician to take thousands of dollars from chronically ill patients for fraudulent stem cell implant procedures, has been sentenced.

87-year-old Alfred Sapse of Las Vegas was sentenced Tuesday to 17.5 years in federal prison and ordered to pay approximately $1 million in restitution.

Sapse was convicted by a jury in November 2012 of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, seven counts of mail fraud and 11 counts of wire fraud.

The co-defendant, Dr. Ralph Conti of Henderson, died several weeks following the conviction.

"Using purported medical practices and procedures to steal from vulnerable persons who are ill is disgusting and wrong," said U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden.

According to the indictment and evidence, from January 2005 to current, Sapse, who purports to be a retired foreign physician but who has never been licensed to practice medicine in Nevada or any other state, convinced chronically ill patients to undergo experimental implant procedures and convinced investors to pay him large amounts of money without knowing the short or long term effects of the implant procedures he promoted.

The procedures involved the implantation of portions of placental tissue into the abdomen of the patients for the treatment of their diseases.

Sapse allegedly targeted extremely sick patients, by claiming his "proprietary" procedure was especially effective for patients with multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and retinitis pigmentosa.

In fall of 2005, Sapse hired Conti to perform the procedures, who had no prior stem cell training. Between February 2006 and November 2006, Conti performed the implant procedure on approximately 34 patients in Las Vegas, knowing it would not benefit the patients.

In November 2006, the FDA sent Sapse and Conti a warning letter explaining their procedure violated federal law, but after that date Conti performed at least one more implant and Sapse coordinated the implantation of at least two more patients.

In February 2007, Sapse relocated his fraudulent scheme to Mexico and entered into an arrangement with a Mexican physician to perform his implant procedure. That Mexican physician performed the implant procedure on approximately 100 patients.

Sapse received approximately $1 million from patients and investors, approximately $700,000 of which he spent on personal expenditures and for gambling at local casinos.

Conti received in excess of $60,000 from the fraudulent procedures, all of which was in cash and none of which was reported on the accounting books of his medical practice.