Prosecutors in the federal drug adulteration and misbranding case filed their sentencing recommendations for veterinarian Dr. Kristian Rhein late last week, and the documents revealed a couple of new details about the case they would have mounted against him.
Rhein has entered a plea of guilty to a charge of drug adulteration and misbranding for his role in what the government says was a broad conspiracy between veterinarians, drug manufacturers, and trainers to illegally dope racehorses. Rhein is specifically accused of giving horses clenbuterol without a valid prescription and peddling a substance called SGF-1000 to racetrack clients, including co-defendant Jason Servis.
It had previously been established that Rhein owned a stake in MediVet Equine, which sold SGF-1000, and that despite this, Rhein didn’t seem totally clear on what was in the drug.
The prosecutors’ sentencing documentation touched on excerpts from intercepted phone calls not previously revealed which captured Rhein musing about what SGF-1000 may or may not actually contain.
Read more about SGF-1000 in our previous reporting here and here.
In one call with an unidentified third party, Rhein said that he didn’t even believe the substance contained growth hormone, despite being advertised that way for several years. Prosecutors said he “had not confirmed” this. Further, Rhein also seemed to have his own theories about regulatory testing.
“Just because they can test for it, it doesn’t mean they will,” Rhein allegedly said. “Now if it has growth hormone, I mean, it costs them a lot of money to test. A lot of money. And the second thing is, how long is something in there. Well if we’re giving it five to seven days out then we’re fine. It’s not gonna hang around. It’s – nothing hangs around long. EPO doesn’t hang around that long.”
Previous documents had revealed that Rhein became worried at one point that there could be federal scrutiny of SGF-1000 because it wasn’t approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and that he was part of a brainstorming session on how to avoid detection. One of the things Rhein considered was whether the drug should be renamed to something more innocuous.
“What was the [expletive] name that somebody told me? It was a good name,” he said. “It was kinda cheesy, but shit it was good, it was a one-word name, like … you know like … like Encore, something like that … Repair … RepairRx. Like Repair Treatment.”
In fact, Rhein seemed to know back in August 2019 that there was more than a potential for law enforcement to become interested in SGF-1000. Rhein learned around mid-August that Servis had been approached and questioned by law enforcement. He then called Servis assistant Henry Argueta, who was included in the first round of indictments in March 2020 but absent from a superseding indictment in November 2020. Rhein asked Argueta whether the FBI or the “DA office from Manhattan” had approached Servis. It’s not clear how he knew which agencies may be involved, but he also appeared to anticipate that his vehicle may become subject to searches. He also seemed to believe Servis’ phone may be tapped, asking Argueta how he could “get in touch with Jason” without making anyone suspicious.
Rhein seems to have panicked at this time, calling an unidentified representative of an unnamed drug testing laboratory and explaining the situation with SGF-1000.
“Either cease and desist or you’re gonna go to jail,” the person told Rhein. “One or the other. What do you want to do? … I’m saying if you want to stay out of jail don’t use it.”
According to prosecutors, Rhein did not cease using the drug, which he often billed as acupuncture to conceal its use from owners.
Rhein later told fellow veterinarian and co-defendant Dr. Alexander Chan to “be careful” regarding his use of the drug and that “more than likely you are going to be watched.”
Prosecutors are advocating for a three-year sentence in federal prison.
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