Nick Tran's lawyer suggests "race" an issue in federal case - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Nick Tran's lawyer suggests "race" an issue in federal case

By Steve Phillips – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A medical expert and Drug Enforcement Agency investigator were among the witnesses during the second day of Nick Tran's federal drug trial Tuesday.

Tran is the Biloxi pharmacist who was indicted for allegedly conspiring with two doctors at the Family Medical Center to write and fill hundreds of illegal narcotics prescriptions. Dr. Thomas Trieu and Dr. Victoria Van both accepted plea agreements and pleaded guilty to lesser charges.

Much of Tuesday's testimony focused on the professional behavior of the two doctors.

Nick Tran says he's innocent. But government prosecutors are laying a foundation to prove he filled hundreds of illegal narcotics prescriptions, outside the scope of professional standards.

The prosecution's medical expert, Dr. Tricia Aultman, reviewed hundreds of patient records from the Family Medical Center. She testified about large numbers of narcotics prescriptions that were written without any medical necessity and most times with little or no physical exam.

Those medical records were seized by the government when agents raided the Family Medical Center and Tran's Pharmacy next door in 2008.

Dr. Aultman testified those records showed large numbers of young people, repeatedly visiting the clinic with the same complaints, often getting no medical exam and then leaving with prescriptions for various narcotics.

DEA investigator Wendy Davis testified Nick Tran should have seen "red flags" going up when he saw the hundreds of narcotics prescriptions coming from the neighboring clinic.

During a cross exam, defense attorney David Morrison, suggested his client's ethnicity might be a factor in the case against him.

After questioning the DEA witness about why a Caucasian pharmacist who worked part time at Tran's pharmacy wasn't also investigated, Morrison asked the witness: What race is Nick Tran?

The prosecution quickly objected, saying race has absolutely nothing to do with the case. However, Morrison said he is prepared to make an argument later on that issue.

The second day concluded with the jury watching undercover video that was made by narcotics agents posing as patients.

The government's medical expert, Dr. Aultman, also took issue with the vast numbers of patients seen by Dr. Trieu at the Family Medical Center.

At the time of the raid, Dr. Trieu was seeing up to 150 patients a day. Dr. Aultman testified the average number of patients should be 25 to 35 a day.

Copyright 2010 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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