By Frank Angst
Four veterinarians, who have agreed to plead guilty under a plea agreement following criminal charges brought by a U.S. Attorney, can expect to have their licenses reviewed in Pennsylvania.
Late March 26, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced criminal charges had been filed against racetrack vets Kevin Brophy, 60, of Florida; Fernando Motta, 44, of Lancaster, Pa., Christopher Korte, 43, of Pueblo, Col., and Renee Nodine, 52, of Annville, Pa.
In charges that included race-rigging, administering drugs without a prescription, and misbranding of animal drugs, the U.S. Attorney said the four charged veterinarians have accepted plea bargains while admitting guilt. The vets are accused of administering drugs on race day and submitting false treatment reports to the Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission.
The four vets face maximum penalties of up to two years in prison and fines of $200,000. Besides those possible sanctions, they also figure to face professional review and possible suspension or revocation of their practicing licenses.
A spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of State, Wanda Murren, said March 27 that when a licensee is charged with a significant criminal offense, the DOS typically will open a file and investigate the matter. If a veterinary license is suspended or revoked in Pennsylvania, that information is shared with all other licensing boards in the U.S.
As for the veterinarians involved, Brophy is the owner and attending veterinarian of Abba Vet Supply in Wellington, Fla, according to the company’s website. The Abba website includes an online store that lists numerous medications and supplements for sale.
“At Abba Vet Supply, our commitment and our values are built around a unique focus: caring for the health, well-being, and success of your racehorse,” says the Abba site. “Because of this unique focus, built around over 30 years of experience in treating Thoroughbred and Standardbred horses by Dr. Kevin Brophy D.V.M. and his colleagues, we have created an innovative approach to selecting and offering a range of performance horse treatments and supplement supplies.”
According to State Board of Veterinary Medicine in Pennsylvania licensing records, Brophy has held a license to practice veterinary medicine in Pennsylvania since 1986. All four vets have active licenses in the state. Motta has had a license since 1999, Korte since 2008, and Nodine since 1992.
Previous disciplinary action against Brophy in Pennsylvania exists, although details were not readily available. There are no previous disciplinary actions reported against any of the other three charged vets.
Blood-Horse attempted to contact Brophy, Korte, and Nodine but did not immediately receive a response. Current contact information for Motta was not readily available.
According to bio information, Motta and Korte previously worked with Brophy at Brophy, Motta and Associates. The bio information came from LinkedIn pages for Motta and Brophy, as well as a bio that originally ran for Korte on a website tied to Brophy, Motta, and Associates in Annville, Pa.
Nodine is the owner of Horseshoe Valley Equine Center and her practice includes ambulatory service and a clinic at a 46-acre farm in Annville.
In a statement, American Association of Equine Practitioners president G. Kent Carter expressed disappointment and added that they did not have additional details beyond what has been reported.
“Ethical practice is a necessary requirement in all aspects of veterinary medicine. All veterinarians are expected to follow the American Veterinary Medical Association Code of Ethics, the ethics code of their state veterinary medical association, and all rules and regulations of horse racing that apply at the racetracks where practicing,” Carter said. “The health and welfare of the horse can only be protected when veterinarians abide by the ethical code that we are bound to as part of veterinary medicine.
“It is paramount that AAEP members and all veterinarians practicing at the racetrack adhere to the highest ethical standards in order to protect the racehorse and the integrity of the sport.”
U.S. Attorney Peter Smith noted in a release that the charges followed an investigation by his office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission, U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigation, and the Pennsylvnia State Police. Assistant U.S. Attorney William Behe is prosecuting the cases.
State racing regulators often are limited in their oversight of racetrack veterinarians, as many states put veterinary boards in charge of that oversight. In April, in an effort to expand their reach, the Association of Racing Commissioners International (RCI) plans to discuss state veterinary board requirements that prescription medications be dispensed only upon a valid diagnoses for a specific patient.
RCI establishes model rules that its state regulator members are encouraged to adopt. While federal authorities took the lead on the Pennsylvania enforcement, which also has included the 2013 federal indictment of three trainers and a track clocker, RCI president Ed Martin welcomed the federal actions.
“(The) indictments are indicative of how racing commissions are teaming up with law enforcement and other government agencies to enforce laws designed to protect horses and the integrity of racing,” Martin said.