LAS VEGAS (CN) - An attorney pleaded guilty to felony obstruction of justice in what federal prosecutors call a network of doctors and lawyers who protected doctors from malpractice suits and shared kickbacks from legal settlements. Noel Gage, 71, entered his Alford plea before U.S. District Court Judge Justin Quackenbush.
His co-defendant, Howard Awand, also made a plea agreement, and is set for a change of plea hearing in March.
Gage was charged with one count of obstruction of justice for concealing documents from the grand jury investigating the case, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. As part of the plea agreement, conspiracy and fraud counts against Gage will be dismissed.
Gage also agreed to return $702,600 in attorney's fees to a woman who said she was a victim of fraud.
"The plea agreement allows Gage to plead guilty under a provision of law that allows him to maintain his innocence while simultaneously pleading guilty to obstruction of justice," the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement. "The so-called Alford plea is named after the 1970 United States Supreme Court decision of North Carolina v. Alford, which allows a defendant to enter a plea of guilty, and to be found guilty, while maintaining innocence to a criminal charge."
Co-conspirator Dr. Mark Kabins pleaded guilty in November 2009 to one count of misprision of felony for his role in the kickback scheme, and was sentenced to 5 years probation, 6 months of home confinement and 250 hours of community service. He also was ordered to pay $3.5 million in restitution.
Gage is to be sentenced in June. The maximum sentence he faces is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
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