LEXINGTON, Ky. (CN) – A class of horse buyers claims several Kentucky veterinarians altered x-rays and then destroyed the medical records to conceal the true condition of horses sold at auction at the world-renowned Keeneland Racecourse.
Lead plaintiff Tom Swearingen filed a class action Thursday in Fayette County Circuit Court, claiming the years-long practice of x-ray manipulation “involved tens of thousands of radiographs” and has defrauded thousands of horse buyers.
Hagyard Davidson McGee Associates PLLC in Lexington is the equine medical institute at the center of the lawsuit, and is named as a defendant alongside the CPA firm Dean Dorton Allen Ford PLLC.
Veterinarians Michael T. Hore MVB, Robert J. Hunt DVM, Dwayne Rodgerson DVM and Michael Spirito DVM are also named as defendants.
“The veterinarians at Hagyard Davidson McGee have, for over a decade, engaged in the practice of intentionally altering the dates on which digital x-rays of horses for sale were taken, in order to make it appear the x-rays were taken within three weeks of the sale,” the complaint states. “In fact, those x-rays were older than that. The original digital x-rays [sic] files were then intentionally destroyed and deleted from the mobile radiograph machines by those same veterinarians.”
According to the lawsuit brought by lead attorney Mason Miller of Lexington-based Miller Edwards Rambicure, an in-house repository was established at Keeneland in 1996 to allow buyers to view complete sets of x-rays before purchasing a horse.
“Instead of travelling from farm to farm with a veterinarian,” the complaint says, “plaintiff and similarly situated buyers could have their veterinarian simply review all of the x-rays placed in the repository at any time prior to the sale.”
Consignors, or sellers, of the horses at auction are not required to provide x-rays, but if they choose to do so, the images must be less than three weeks old at the time of the sale.
Although the complaint alleges the practice of manipulating the dates of x-rays was discovered at the repository as far back as 2006, it was allowed to continue at the behest of Hagyard’s management team.
“Hagyard’s CEO and/or director of operations requested that [Dean Dorton Allen Ford] assist the fraud by ‘unlocking’ any radiograph machine so that dates could be fraudulently altered,” the lawsuit states.
“Since 2006,” it continues, “the veterinarians at Hagyard have fraudulently altered the dates of tens of thousands of radiographs … for the oldest reasons known: money and greed.”
According to the complaint, the veterinarian defendants turned themselves in to the Kentucky Board of Veterinary Examiners last year for engaging in the practice or failing to act despite knowing their colleagues were involved.
The horse buyers claim several of the veterinarians have admitted under oath they intentionally altered x-rays to increase profits.
Swearingen, a resident of Illinois, included a list of the 24 horses he purchased at Keeneland from 2007 through 2016, the cost of which totaled more than $400,000.
He calls the sales “the functional equivalent of playing Russian Roulette.”
The proposed class seeks compensatory and punitive damages for claims of fraud, civil conspiracy, breach of warranty and negligence.
Hagyard did not return a call for comment.