Nick Tran federal drug trial underway - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Nick Tran federal drug trial underway

By Steve Phillips – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS  (WLOX) - A federal prosecutor says Biloxi pharmacist, Nick Tran, knowingly took part in a conspiracy to fill hundreds of "illegitimate" narcotics prescriptions.

Tran's federal trial got underway Monday afternoon after a 12 person jury was seated. He's accused of conspiring with a husband-wife doctor team at the adjoining Family Medical Center.

The other defendants in the case accepted plea agreements and pleaded guilty to lesser charges.

The government says Nick Tran allowed his pharmacy to become a center for illegal drug dealing. Tran is accused of conspiring with Dr. Thomas Trieu and others to write and fill prescription narcotics for Lortab, cough syrup with codeine and Zanax.

Prosecutor John Menardie said Monday that by early 2008 the Family Medical Clinic was seeing 150 patients a day, and during the month of February that year, wrote 842 prescriptions for Lortab, a narcotic pain killer.

Menardie said by the time narcotics agents raided and shutdown the clinic and Tran's Pharmacy, the operation had become essentially a "drug bazaar."

He told the jury about a Mobile woman that would bring multiple family members from toddlers to teenagers.  All would leave the clinic with prescriptions for narcotic cough syrup, prescriptions that were filled at Tran's Pharmacy.

The prosecutor also told of one man who would bring car loads of "patients" to the clinic, pay for their office visits and then receive the narcotic cough syrup they were prescribed.

Menardie said 90 plus percent of all Dr. Trieu's narcotics prescriptions were filled at Tran's Pharmacy next door.

The first witness, a former intake clerk at the medical clinic, said by the time she left in early 2008 the majority of patients were "cash customers," many of whom smelled like marijuana when they came to the doctor's office.

Defense attorney David Morrison deferred his opening statement until after the prosecution presents its case. He asked that first witness: Did you ever see Nick Tran commit any crime? Her answer: I did not.

Much medical-related testimony is expected during the trial, which could last up to two weeks. The government's medical expert, a physician from Ocean Springs, will take the stand Tuesday.

The 12 person jury consists of seven men and five women. With the exception of one African-American woman, the jury is all white.

In earlier court briefs, defense attorney David Morrison suggested race may be a factor in this case. He said Nick Tran was being selectively prosecuted because he is Vietnamese.

Copyright 2010 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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