Cancer doctor’s attorney asks for more time for defense

SUMMIT — A defense lawyer wants a federal judge to give him more time to prepare for trial in the case of a cancer clinic accused of using old syringes and watered-down chemotherapy drugs.

Attorney George Lucas asked for the delay because he expects prosecutors to hand over thousands more pages of information he must review before the Feb. 7 trial. He wants the trial postponed until May.

Lucas represents the clinic’s former office manager, Brittany McCoskey of Monticello. McCoskey and former billing agent Monica Weeks of Madison are free on bond.

Dr. Meera Sachdeva, founder of Rose Cancer Center in Summit, has been held without bond since August on charges of diluting drugs and billing Medicaid and Medicare for more chemotherapy than patients were given.

All three have pleaded not guilty.

“According to the government we have already received 160,000 pages of discovery with several thousand more pages that has not been produced to the defendant yet. We will need additional time to review the documents once we receive them,” Lucas wrote last Friday in a motion filed in U.S. District Court in Jackson. “Also, it is very likely that both the government and defendants will need to retain expert witnesses and need the proper amount of time to do so.”

Lucas’ motion said Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Gilbert had no objection to the delay.

The Mississippi Health Department closed the Rose Cancer Center on July 20 because of “unsafe infection control practices” and has tested hundreds of patients for HIV and other diseases because of concerns about dirty needles after 11 patients went to hospitals with the same bacterial infection.

Federal and state authorities have said old needles were used on multiple patients, but a civil lawsuit last month contained the first public allegation filed in court that someone contracted HIV.

That lawsuit claims James Ralph Patterson Sr. went to the clinic for treatment of his brain and lung cancer but ended up getting watered-down drugs and was infected with HIV by an old needle. Patterson died July 3 at the age of 61. The lawsuit is filed on behalf of Patterson’s son, and it’s is one of several suits filed in Pike County Circuit Court by Jackson attorneys John Giddens and Philip Thomas.

Sachdeva has been held without bond because authorities say she is a flight risk. She is a naturalized U.S. citizen from India. Prosecutors said she often traveled overseas and has considerable assets, including bank accounts in her native country, despite the seizure of about $6 million.

Sachdeva established the clinic in south Mississippi in 2005 and billed Medicaid and Medicare for about $15.1 million during the alleged scheme. Prosecutors say Sachdeva gave patients less chemotherapy or cheaper drugs than they were told, while billing Medicaid and Medicare for more. Prosecutors also say the clinic billed for new syringes for each patient even though it reused some on multiple people.

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