Veterinarian Louis Grasso, veterinary supply distributor Donato Poliseno, standardbred trainer Thomas Guido III and assistant trainer Conor Flynn all entered pleas of not guilty to a single count of drug adulteration and misbranding conspiracy in a video arraignment conducted by District Court Judge P. Kevin Castel for the Southern District of New York.
The federal Food and Drug Administration say a drug may be considered “misbranded” or “adulterated” for several reasons, including:
- If a drug does not have requisite approvals from the FDA for use in an animal.
- If a drug requiring a prescription is administered without a valid prescription, that is, not in the usual course of a veterinarian’s professional practice.
- If a drug’s label is deficient in various specified respects, for example, if it is false or misleading or does not accurately list details regarding the manufacturer, packer, or distributor, the contests of the packaging, or directions for use.
- If the facility that manufactures the drug is not duly registered by the FDA.
Due to staffing issues from the COVID-19 outbreak, Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Mortazavi said the prosecution needed six months to complete their investigation with “multiple terabytes” of information detailing purchases of illegal substances obtained from various pharmacies and the search of thirteen computers, seven cell phones and two hard drives that were confiscated in the March 9th arrest.
Castel granted an Oct 2nd, 11am date for the four men to appear in court for trial.
A letter from U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman to Castel mentioned additional discoveries in the case that included “audio recordings” from months of cell phone wiretap conversations involving Grasso and veterinarians Seth Fishman and Lisa Giannelli.
Fishman and Giannelli were among the original 19 individuals named in a separate indictment alleging illegal use of PED (performance enhancing drugs) that included trainers Jorge Navarro and Jason Servis.
The letter also states “documents, photographs and PED inventories seized from premises belonging to defendants Poliseno and Grasso”
The prosecution was also granted a protective order from the court because it “contains information that identifies, or could lead to the identification of, witnesses who may be subject to intimidation or obstruction.”
The indictment charges Grasso, from Pine Bush, N.Y. with supplying “adulterated and misbranded PEDs to horse trainers across the United States. The adulterated and mislabeled PEDs included snake venom, sulker, a ‘pain shot,’ ‘Bronk,’ and ‘Red Acid,” and Epo, (a drug that stimulates the liver to produce more red blood cells) among others.”
Recorded phone conversations between Grasso and Guido includes one where Guido allegedly requested 4,000 units of “Epo” and to “submit prescriptions to pharmacies under canine patients.”
Poliseno, from Hartley, DE. who in the past has owned, trained or driven standardbreds, was described in the indictment as the owner of a veterinary supply business in Delaware that purchased PEDs from Grasso and “recruited Grasso for the purpose of using Grasso’s veterinary license” to obtain PEDs.
Clearly, a black eye for the sport of Horse Racing, more on this story as it unfolds.