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Sprawling Racehorse Doping Case Expected to Get More Unwieldy

Nearly two weeks after bringing a superseding indictment in an already massive doping prosecution of racehorse trainers and veterinarians, federal prosecutors told a judge Tuesday more charges and more defendants could be in store.

MANHATTAN (CN) — Nearly two weeks after bringing a superseding indictment in an already massive doping prosecution of racehorse trainers and veterinarians, federal prosecutors told a judge Tuesday more charges and more defendants could be in store.

The case details widescale smuggling and rebranding of thousands of units of performance-enhancing drugs and pain medications administered on horses in the United States and United Arab Emirates. 

Prosecutors with the Southern District of New York brought the first four federal indictments over the scheme this past March, taking aim at 27 trainers, veterinarians and other figures in the horse-racing world. 

At the center of the case, according to those charges, was racehorse trainer Jorge Navarro, who is said to have paid veterinarians to prescribe drugs that would cause horses to ignore pain and overexert themselves, sometimes to the point of injury or death. 

The government expanded the timeframe for some counts in a Nov. 5 superseding indictment, while also charging Jason Servis, Kristian Rhein and Alexander Chan with new wire and mail fraud charges retailed to the billing of drugs administered by Rhein’s veterinary practice. 

Another veterinarian, Seth Fishman, is accused of accepting tens of thousands of dollars from Navarro to prescribe medications without performing a medical exam or making a diagnosis. 

“Indeed, the administration of those [performance-enhancing drugs] was not intended to be therapeutic, but rather to increase the chances of winning horse races,” the indictment states.

Prosecutors also recount a conversation between Fishman and a prospective customer about whether the drugs constitute “doping” the horses. “If you’re giving something to a horse to make it better, and you’re not supposed to do that … That’s doping,” the veterinarian replied, according to the indictment. 

“You know, whether or not it’s testable, that’s a different story.” 

Fishman is now accused of continuing his charged conduct while on release under the Bail Act, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Adams explained Tuesday, resulting in a charge under 18 U.S.C. 3147.

Other changes in the superseding indictment clarify charges and hold that certain drugs were used to enhance racehorses’ performance, even if they were not effective: A drug that turned out to be “a dud,” Adams said, “is “nevertheless a performance-enhancing drug, or a misbranded and adulterated drug.”

The drugs in question include “blood-building” drugs, allegedly administered to avoid anti-doping drug screens by regulators. Those drugs can thicken horse blood, causing cardiac problems that can be fatal. 

Racehorses were also allegedly given analgesic pain medications and an anti-inflammatory drug known as “red acid.” Under the drugs, the horses ignored pain and overexerted themselves. 

The drugs have been linked to some horse deaths, as well as incidences of cardiac arrest or broken limbs from overexertion. Officials say some of the substances were manufactured in the United States, at unregulated facilities; others were smuggled from abroad. 

Prosecutors say that among the doped racehorses was XY Jet, who died of a heart attack in January after winning last year’s Golden Shaheen race in Dubai. 

The racehorse Maximum Security, who originally won the 2019 Kentucky Derby but was disqualified for bearing out, was also allegedly doped. 

In all, the 47-page superseding indictment names 14 defendants, four of whom were present in court Tuesday. Attorneys spoke for the remaining individuals charged. 

The hearing, in front of U.S. District Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil, addressed the timeline for filing pretrial motions, which attorneys agreed will happen in several phases. The soonest deadline is Feb. 5, by which defendants must file any motions to dismiss charges. 

But the timing is subject to change if prosecutors’ continuing investigation leads to significant new discovery documents. 

Already, the government has produced a colossal number of documents, including laboratory data and communication records. 

Most of the files were delivered in two batches at the end of September. Before that document drop, coordinating discovery attorney Emma Greenwood said she had received 80 gigabytes of data. The September documents brought the total to a whopping 8 terabytes. (There are 1,000 gigabytes in one terabyte.) 

Robert Baum with the Federal Defenders of New York represents Chan but spoke Tuesday on behalf of defense attorneys. He said the discovery so far constitutes the “greatest volume of discovery I’ve seen throughout my career,” which spans 25 years in practice. 

Still, there are more documents to come. 

Adams noted that prosecutors “even today” received documents that are still being collated and produced to Greenwood’s office. 

Plus, prosecutors have been unable to get into nine cellphones, iPads and other electronic devices seized from Seth Fishman around the time of his arrest because of corrupted files or lack of technology to crack passwords. 
Responding to the possibility of those devices being opened, Fishman’s attorney, Andrew Feldman, asked Judge Vyskocil to hold prosecutors to a deadline for discovery or for a second superseding indictment. Such a development could “send a shock wave” through Feldman’s and other attorneys’ anticipated defense, Feldman said.  

Vyskocil declined to set a discovery deadline, but asked parties to keep her in the loop about any significant document production between now and the next appearance, set for May 14, 2021.

Follow @NinaPullano
Categories / Criminal, Entertainment, Health, Sports

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