By Bill Finley
Jason Servis and two veterinarians involved in the scheme to allegedly drug race horses could be spending considerable time in prison after the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York released a superseding indictment Friday that includes the charge of Mail and Wire Fraud Conspiracy. The maximum sentence under federal guidelines for the charge is 20 years.
Five individuals named in the original indictment were not included in the superseding indictment, including former Servis assistant Henry Argueta. That could lead to speculation that the five are cooperating with law enforcement authorities.
In addition to Servis, the wire fraud charges were directed at Alexander Chan and Kristian Rhein. According to the indictment, the two conspired with Servis to administer misbranded and adulterated PEDs.
“It is likely the expansion resulted from additional investigation, possibly as a result of a potentially cooperating witness,” said Frank Becker, an attorney specializing in equine law in Lexington, Ky., who is unconnected to the case.
“Notably, the superseding indictment alleges that at least some of the doping scheme commenced as far back as 2002 when Seth Fishman allegedly began manufacturing PEDs. Another significant allegation is that Seth Fishman provided the use of his veterinary license to distributor Lisa Giannelli to sell prescription veterinary `without a valid prescription.'”
The superseding indictment lays out a picture where Servis, Chan and Rhein were involved in a scheme whereby they obtained money and property by “means of false and fraudulent pretenses.” Specifically, the indictment charges that fraudulent bills were sent to owners, falsely billing them for the “undisclosed use of adulterated and misbranded drugs on the owners' horses.”
In the original indictment, it was alleged that Servis, Chan, Rhein and Argueta conspired to dope racehorses using illegal drugs, including the PED SGF-1000. In a call intercepted between Servis and Navarro, Servis allegedly said “I've been using it on almost everything.”
In addition to Argueta, the individuals who were left out of the superseding indictment are Gregory Skelton, Nick Surick, Chris Marino and Ross Cohen.
The original indictment charges that Skelton is a veterinarian who misbranded and adulterated PEDs and Cohen acted as a distributor of PEDs. Surick and Marino are harness trainers who, according to the indictment, were also involved in receiving and administering misbranded and adulterated PEDs. Of the four, Surick was facing the most serious penalties as the charges against him included two counts of obstruction. The maximum penalty for obstruction is a sentence of 20 years.
Servis was among 27 individuals indicted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District in March after a probe into a “widespread, corrupt scheme by racehorse trainers, veterinarians, PED distributors and others to manufacture distribute, and receive adulterated and misbranded PEDs and to secretly administer those PEDs to racehorses under scheme participants' control.”
“The superseding indictment adds that some of the defendants, specifically Jason Servis, Kristian Rhein, and Alexander Chan, falsified billing records to cover up the administration of SGF-1000 and Clenbuterol, such as by falsely labeling such charges as `stable supplies' to deceive horse owners and regulators. Because these deceptive bills were mailed or electronically sent, the Superseding Indictment added a charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud,” said Becker.
Another significant expansion of the original indictment is a claim for `forfeiture' against almost all of the alleged conspirators, rather than just trainer Nicholas Surick as in the original indictment. In fact, Surick (and four others) are not even included in the superseding Indictment, which may be a result of either a determination that there is insufficient evidence or that there has been an agreement with the prosecutors. In the original indictment, the three were charged with one count of Drug Alteration and Misbranding Conspiracy, which carries a maximum sentence of five years.
The new charges against Servis are the first developments in the case to be made public after Scott Robinson and Sarah Izhaki pled guilty to lesser charges, also raising the possibility that they are cooperating with authorities.
The superseding indictment did not include any new charges against high-profile trainer Jorge Navarro, who still faces two counts of Drug Alteration and Misbranding Conspiracy.
No new names surfaced in the superseding indictment, which replaces the original indictment filed Monday, March 9.