Bond Denied Again In Prescription Narcotics Case - - The News for South Mississippi

Bond Denied Again In Prescription Narcotics Case

GULFPORT (WLOX) -- They have both the motive and means to leave the country and avoid trial. That was the message from federal judge John Roper, who again denied bond Friday for two defendants in a prescription narcotics case.

Attorneys for Dr. Victoria Van and pharmacist Nick Tran argued for their freedom. But the severity of the charges and concerns that both defendants have access to "large sums of money" weighed against them.

Friday's testimony at the bond hearing included questions about "missing money" and allegations of a gambling problem.

Dr. Victoria Van and pharmacist Nick Tran are two of the four defendants in the case involving the Family Medical Center and the alleged distribution of prescription narcotics to patients who didn't need them.

Defense attorney Michael Crosby says the case is filled with speculation and innuendo. The prosecutor says Dr. Van and her husband, defendant Dr. Thomas Trieu, acted as "conduits" or drug dealers for narcotics, in a case the government said may be vastly larger than what's been uncovered so far.

Crosby says last month's raid on the Family Medical Center and Tran's Pharmacy on Division Street was overzealous. At the hearing, he said the DEA agents involved in the case are "obviously determined to convict, rather than get to the truth."

The defense attorney alleges Dr. Van did nothing wrong; that she followed proper medical procedure in prescribing drugs, and those records should have been reviewed by an outside physician.

"I really am saddened to know that arrests would be made prior to review by a licensed physician. Not just a DEA agent on assumptions and presumptions and speculation, but based on hard evidence. And the hard evidence just isn't there," said Crosby.

Nick Tran's attorney, Albert Fong, said his client presented no danger to the community and is not a flight risk.

Tran's youngest sister took the stand and pleaded for her brother's release. But perhaps the most damaging evidence against Tran involved large cash transactions in his bank accounts, hefty sums of money unaccounted for, and tens of thousand dollars in gambling debt paid to two coast casinos.

"Based upon the finances, that was the ultimate decision maker for him. He decided Nick was a little too much of a flight risk based upon that," says Fong.

The DEA agent overseeing the case testified earlier the narcotic prescriptions written at Family Medical Center could be linked to nine drug overdose deaths. The judge pointed to that earlier testimony, which suggested Dr. Trieu admitted to over-prescribing narcotics, that Dr. Van knew about it and yet the behavior continued.

Family, friends and supporters of the two defendants filled the courtroom and spilled into the hallway. Among those attending the hearing was Dr. Van's father, who pastors a large church in California.

"I have seven children. I pray and I teach her everything. She's a very good Christian in my family," said Dr. David Van.

The two defendants appeared in court handcuffed and wearing inmate clothing.  Dr. Van was somber throughout the three hour hearing, showing little outward emotion.

Nick Van put his head in his hands and began weeping at one point, as his youngest sister testified about how her brother is the primary care giver to their elderly, ailing parents.

Trial for the four defendants is set for August 18th.

By Steve Phillips

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