- Associated Press - Thursday, May 19, 2016

RENO, Nev. (AP) - A well-known Reno doctor at the center of a federal investigation into an allegedly deadly prescription drug-trafficking ring lost his bid Thursday to be released from jail even under the strictest conditions pending his trial scheduled this summer.

Dr. Robert Rand, 53, entered not guilty pleas in U.S. District Court in Reno to charges accusing him of writing hundreds of painkiller prescriptions to people who didn’t need them, including one who died from an overdose last fall.

U.S. Magistrate Valerie Cooke then ordered him to remain in jail without bond.

“Obviously, this case is very, very serious,” Cooke said Thursday before concluding Rand is a serious flight risk primarily because he could “be sent to prison for decades.”

Rand’s trial along with eight other alleged co-conspirators currently is scheduled for July 19. But his lawyer, John Arrascada, said it likely will be delayed long after that because the case is so complex.

Richard “Richie” West, 38, the manager of a Reno car dealership who was arrested after it was raided in April by federal agents who say the drug ring operated in large part out of Jones West Ford, also was sent back to jail without bail, at least for now.

U.S. District Judge Miranda Du said during a hearing earlier Thursday she needs more time to determine whether any adequate conditions could be placed on West’s release to protect the community and ensure he’d show up at trial.

West’s lawyer, David Houston, had argued that West suffers from severe back pain from a lifelong medical condition that can’t be treated at the Washoe County jail - something he said amounts to “cruel and unusual punishment.”

U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden said earlier the investigation is the most extensive in the state in the five years since his office and area law officers stepped up efforts to combat the growth of “dirty doctors and illicit pill mills.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney James Keller said Thursday he believes it’s the first time a Nevada doctor has been accused of writing a prescription resulting in a death.

The parents of the overdose victim, Michael Yenick, have filed a wrongful death suit alleging Rand ignored their warnings and continued to up his dosage of Oxycodone - the last time just two days before he died in October at the age of 33.

Keller said the parents called Rand “and begged him, ‘Don’t kill my son. You keep prescribing this stuff, you’re killing him.’”

Arrascada produced two dozen letters of support written on Rand’s behalf by patients, medical colleagues, family and friends, including former Reno Police Chief Jim Weston and former Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons, who called him a “man of peace.”

“I firmly believe without a shadow of doubt that Dr. Rand is not a threat to the community, nor a flight risk,” wrote Gibbons, who said he knows Rand as both a doctor and a friend, attended his wedding in Key West, Florida and celebrates holidays with his family.

Arrascada told Cooke that Rand had offered to reduce the flight risk by posting a bond for the value of his home and a $150,000 surety bond from his father, as well as be confined to house arrest, wear a GPS leg bracelet and report to authorities on a daily basis.

Rand also was willing to forfeit his federal license to write prescriptions for painkillers and other narcotics, and to voluntarily suspend his medical license so as to eliminate any potential threat to public safety, Arrascada said.

“A son who would run out and cost his 85-year-old father $150,000 flies against my common sense,” he said, adding that if Rand skipped bail it likely would lead to the homelessness of his wife and 1-year-old daughter.

Cooke wasn’t swayed.

“This court does not believe there are conditions that can address the flight risk,” she said.

Prosecutors say West introduced all but one of his co-defendants to Rand, and all were caught in wiretaps on West’s cellphone requesting pills from West as part of a conspiracy spanning more than 3 years.

“The breath of this conspiracy is by no means a small one,” Keller said. He said West sold pills out of his truck parked at dealership owned by his father - and sometimes from an office inside the dealership - “while customers were shopping for vehicles.”

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