More legal woes for Nags Head veterinarian
In the latest chapter in the three-year-old case still pending in Dare County Superior Court, Nags Head veterinarian Barrett Oakes Welch has been indicted on eight new felony charges on top of an original indictment for felony trafficking in opium or heroin and obtaining a controlled substance by fraud or forgery.
The May 19 charges against the well-known owner of the Animal Hospital of Nags Head allege that between March of 2015 and January of 2016, on seven different dates, Dr. Welch also embezzled controlled substances as a registrant/practitioner.
Dare County Assistant District Attorney Jeff Cruden told the Sentinel the newest charges “fine tune the [original] indictment based on the evidence as we know it.” He added that the embezzlement charges stem from Dr. Welch using his veterinary license “in a manner inconsistent with how it was supposed to be used.”
Welch’s attorney, H.P. Williams of Elizabeth City, told the Sentinel he has received the new indictment but has not had the opportunity to meet with Welch yet, so declined to comment further.
The indictment cites eight instances in which Welch prescribed tramadol, alprazolam, codeine and diphenoxylate to specific dogs, but alleges that those medications were never received by the dogs or their owners.
The Nags Head veterinarian was first indicted in early 2016 after investigators found evidence that he was diverting controlled substances from his practice for personal use by him or his family for more than a year, according to court documents. Since then, the case has dragged on and has been the subject of a number of continuances and delays.
Welch’s wife, Patrice Taylor Welch, was also charged in 2016 with a felony count of trafficking opium or heroin. But that charge was later dismissed.
And despite the latest charges, Cruden said that a crammed Superior Court calendar for the remainder of the year means that the case likely won’t be heard until some time in 2020.
In late 2017, it appeared the case was close to a resolution, but Welch’s attorney, H.P. Williams of Elizabeth City, rejected a plea offer by the prosecution to drop the more serious felony if the defendant pleaded to the lesser offense. During a 2018 interview with the Sentinel, Williams said he turned down that offer because it would mean his client would have to surrender his U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration license.
Welch has been practicing veterinary medicine for more than 30 years and has continued to run his Nags Head practice since being charged. A back injury in December, however, kept him from work until this past weekend, according to an Animal Hospital of Nags Head’s Facebook post on May 23.
The post read, “Look Who is Coming Back! After breaking his back on Christmas Day, six back surgeries, being put on a ventilator, 4 months in the hospital and re-hab facility, OT, PT…Dr Welch will Be back to work THIS Saturday, May 25th! Come by and say hello and get a hug! So glad to have him back!!!!”
The post received more than 600 responses and close to 100 positive comments of support for Welch, a resident of Colington Island.