Ken Ritter, AP
A Colombian husband and wife were each sentenced to up to eight years in a Nevada prison plus a year in county jail for leaving a Las Vegas mother of three to die after botching her buttocks enhancement procedure in the back room of a Las Vegas tile store. Ruben Matallana-Galvas, 56, and Carmen Torres-Sanchez, 47, apologized to the dead woman's family and asked the judge for leniency.
"It was not my intention to cause her death," Matallana-Galvas said through a Spanish-language court interpreter. "We have reflected, and we have seen that it was a mistake. I accept 100 percent responsibility. But we are not bad people. We have helped the health and welfare of a lot of people." Clark County District Court Judge Abbi Silver gave each the maximum: three years and two months to eight years in state prison, a year in the Clark County jail in Las Vegas and a $12,000 fine.
Matallana-Galvas and Torres-Sanchez pleaded guilty in August to felony involuntary manslaughter and conspiracy, and to misdemeanor practicing medicine without a license. "A real doctor, sir, would not leave a dying woman out to die a horrible and painful death while you, sir, fled the scene of the crime in an effort to save yourself," Silver told Matallana-Galvas. "You chose to let this woman die."
Matallana-Galvas said he was a homeopathic physician in Colombia. Torres-Sanchez was a lawyer with the country's attorney general's office. Authorities said they were in the U.S. on tourist visas. Prosecutor Marc DiGiacomo characterized Matallana-Galvas and Torres-Sanchez, as greedy con artists who preyed on Hispanic patients for money. An autopsy showed Elena Caro, 42, died April 9 from an allergic reaction to anesthesia administered before an injection of a gel to reshape her buttocks. Caro had received facial injections from Matallana-Galvas a week earlier, with no side effects.
Authorities said the fateful procedure on Cano took place in a back room of a Tiles and More store east of downtown Las Vegas. Matallana-Galvas admitted Thursday that he was conducting the procedure and Torres-Sanchez was assisting when Caro became ill. DiGiacomo said they bundled Caro into a car with another woman, but Caro died on the way to a hospital. Police said Caro was found on a street not far from North Vista Hospital in Las Vegas.
"Why didn't they help her?" Caro's 17-year-old daughter, Janet Villalobos, asked as she read a statement in court. "Why didn't they call an ambulance when they realized something was wrong? Instead, they tried to escape." Police arrested Matallana-Galvas and Torres-Sanchez hours later at McCarran International Airport as they prepared to board a flight for Colombia.
In court Thursday, the judge dismissed their emotional pleas for forgiveness and leniency and rebuked Torres-Sanchez. Her defense lawyer asked Silver to consider Torres-Sanchez's work for more than two decades as a prosecutor and corruption-fighter for the attorney general in Colombia. "Talk about corrupt. Where do you begin in this case?" Silver said. "You and your husband set up this shop in the back of this tile store. You assisted him in practicing medicine without a license. All for money. What you did was morally and legally corrupt," the judge told Torres-Sanchez. "You, of all people, know better."
Villalobos said outside court she was glad the couple received the maximum sentence. Her aunt, Maria Caro, 32, told the judge the family knew the sentence wouldn't return Caro to her family. "But it will give some closure to her father, her daughter and her two boys," she said.
Under terms of their plea agreement, Matallana-Galvas and Torres-Sanchez cannot appeal their convictions or sentences. Their visas have expired, and they will face deportation following their prison terms.