Four vets admit role in racehorse drug conspiracy

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eye-stockFour veterinarians have appeared in court in Pennsylvania, where they admitted illegally administering drugs to racehorses within 24 hours of racing.

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania has confirmed that guilty pleas were entered by Dr Kevin Brophy, 60, of Florida; Dr Fernando Motta, 44, of Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Dr Christopher Korte, 43, of Pueblo, Colorado; and Dr Renee Nodine, 52, of Annville, Pennsylvania.

The four defendants were each charged in separate criminal informations on March 26 for their involvement in illegally treating thoroughbred race horses on race-day at Penn National Race Track in Grantville, Pennsylvania.

Each defendant was charged with administering drugs to horses within 24 hours of when the animals were due to race.

US Attorney Peter Smith said this conduct was in violation of the state law prohibiting the rigging of publicly exhibited contests and regulations prohibiting the administration of drugs to horses within 24 hours of when they were entered to race.

Additionally, because the administering of the drugs was in violation of the state criminal laws, rules and regulations governing thoroughbred racing, they were not dispensed in the course of the defendants’ professional practice.

At the guilty plea proceedings before US Magistrate Judge Susan Schwab, Assistant United States Attorney William Behe explained that the drugs were not administered to treat the horses but to enhance the horses’ performance in the race or to give them an edge over other horses.

According to Behe, this constituted misbranding of the prescription animal drugs in violation of federal law. The alleged activity took place at various times beginning as early as 1986 and continuing up to August 2014.

The informations also allege that the defendants conspired with horse trainers, whose identities are said to be known to authorities, to administer the drugs in violation of the laws, rules and regulations governing the conduct of thoroughbred racing.

The guilty pleas, entered in Harrisburg, were pursuant to plea agreements in which the defendants agreed to plead guilty and cooperate with authorities in the continuing investigation.

Behe told the court that cooperation by the defendants was an essential part of the plea agreement and that they had already identified the many trainers with whom the defendants conspired with to illegally administer drugs to horses.

Behe identified for the court the substances administered, that included, among others, Kentucky Red, Carolina Gold, Bute, Dexamethasone, Banamine, Stop2, Estrogen, L-Arginine, and ACTH.

According to the charges, trainers allegedly placed orders for drugs and the defendants, after administering the drugs, backdated the billing records to avoid detection.

The defendants allegedly submitted false veterinarian treatment reports to the State Horse Racing Commission, omitting from those reports any reference to the drugs administered to horses at the track on race day.

The filing of these reports and the backdating of billing records were, allegedly, to further the conspiracy by concealing the illegal activity. These acts had the potential to defraud other owners and trainers whose horses were entered in the same race and defrauded the betting public as well.

The matter is being investigated by the Harrisburg Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission, the US Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations, and the Pennsylvania State Police.

The maximum penalty available under the relevant federal statute is two years’ imprisonment, a term of supervised release following imprisonment, and a fine of up to $US200,000.

Sentencing of the four vets is scheduled for July 21, 2015 before Judge Schwab.

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