Garcia, Navarro's Florida Vet, to Serve 10 Months in Prison

Jorge Navarro | Sarah Andrew

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Erica Garcia, a 44-year-old, Florida-based racetrack veterinarian who admitted to injecting purported performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) into horses trained by the now-imprisoned trainer Jorge Navarro over a several-year period in the 2010s decade, was sentenced Monday to two terms of 10 months in prison, which the judge will allow her to serve concurrently.

The sentence was the result of a plea agreement with federal prosecutors that dropped one felony charge of distributing misbranded and adulterated drugs in exchange for Garcia admitting her guilt in two “substantive” misdemeanor violations of Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act regulations.

Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil of United States District Court (Southern District of New York) also fined Garcia $2,000 and ruled that she must be under supervised release for a year after getting out of prison.

Garcia's sentence falls on the lighter side of those meted out to most other convicted defendants in the wide-ranging international racehorse doping scandal that first came to light in March 2020.

Navarro himself, for example, is serving five years in prison, and other convicted veterinarians in the case got sentences between three and 11 years.

Prosecutors had argued for a two-year prison term, the maximum sentence under federal guidelines for those crimes.

Garcia had argued for a sentence of probation only, urging the court to take into account that she is the primary caretaker and sole provider for an 11-year-old daughter.

In part, the comparatively lenient sentence was based on the feds being willing to cut Garcia a plea break because she withdrew from the Navarro conspiracy in April 2019 after “supporting her employee's decision to report a sick [Navarro-trained] horse to regulatory authorities as required by law,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing submission.

“In hindsight, I realize how stupid and careless I was,” Garcia wrote in her own sentencing submission. “I don't blame Jorge or anyone else for what has happened to me. I take full responsibility for my actions and continue to pay the ultimate price.”

But the feds stated that even though Garcia stopped working for Navarro about a year before the sweeping series of arrests and indictments, she still had to be punished for injecting the purported PEDs, some of which prosecutors said she had no idea what they were or what their supposed medical value was.

“Garcia injected horses with adulterated and misbranded drugs at Navarro's request, for the purpose of facilitating Navarro's corrupt goals of improperly doping horses to compel them to race beyond their natural abilities,” the federal sentencing submission stated.

“Even after withdrawing from the Navarro conspiracy, Garcia offered for sale and sold adulterated and misbranded drugs to others for further distribution and administration,” the government wrote.

“Garcia, as a veterinarian, provided cover for her crimes by giving the appearance that her use of medications was legal and medically necessary. By doing so, Garcia exploited the deference typically afforded to licensed veterinarians and abdicated her duty of care to the horses,” the feds stated.

“Those crimes involved Garcia's participation in a years-long scheme to administer unnecessary and potentially dangerous drugs to racehorses. Those drugs included: (1) a drug described as a blood builder, 'Monkey'; (2) a drug advertised as containing growth factors and further described as having performance-enhancing effect on horses, SGF-1000; (3) a drug from an unknown manufacturer with unknown ingredients that Garcia agreed to inject into horses' joints, called 'red acid' [and] (4) a compounded bronchodilator intended to be even more potent than Clenbuterol,” the feds stated.

“At the time Garcia agreed to administer these drugs–and during the course of the offense conduct–Garcia believed these drugs to have performance-enhancing effects, and was otherwise ignorant of their precise ingredients and how they were manufactured,” the feds summed up.

In open court in August 2021, Navarro admitted to administering illicit substances to the stakes stars of his stable, specifically citing X Y Jet, War Story, Shancelot and Sharp Azteca as examples.

The feds had been prepared to present as evidence at a trial that Garcia, in at least one wiretapped phone conversation, was the one who stuck a needle into Shancelot to send “Monkey” coursing through his system three days before the colt's racing debut.

On Feb. 13, 2019, the feds stated, Navarro raised the issue of Shancelot with Garcia and asked if she would “grease the monkey.”

Garcia responded, “Got it.”

Navarro then confirmed whether Garcia “ha[d] enough monkey,” prompting Garcia to check. “Uh, I think I have, I don't know if I have two shots. It will be damn close. Let me see. Yeah, yeah, I do.”

On Feb. 16, 2019, Shancelot would win his career debut at 12-1 odds at Gulfstream Park.

The improbably fast sprinter would win his next two starts, too, including unleashing a massive 121 Beyer Sped Figure in a 12 1/2-length romp in a Saratoga Race Course Grade II stakes.

Shancelot's jaw-dropping speed figure represented the highest Beyer by any 3-year-old sprinter in the three-decade published history of those numbers.

“To Dr. Garcia's knowledge, none of the horses she treated were harmed or suffered any ill effects,” her attorney wrote in the sentencing submission. “But of course this does not justify her behavior. She understands the very real health risks of giving unlabeled and non-FDA approved substances to animals.”

Garcia's lawyer also told the judge in the sentencing submission that even while being caught up in the doping scandal, Garcia has rebuilt her career as her court case played out, transforming from a racehorse practitioner to a small-animal veterinarian in Florida.

Garcia's attorney wrote that, “She is a force for good in her community where she runs a low-cost spay and neuter program and is among a handful of doctors able to treat exotic pets and perform surgery on goats and other farm animals.”

Vyskocil's order stated that, “The Court recommends the defendant be housed in the Fort Lauderdale area to facilitate family visits.”

Once the Bureau of Prisons designates her facility, Garcia is to report on Mar. 20, 2023.

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