Drugs and bogus training times in racing fraud – US attorney

United States Attorney Peter Smith.
United States Attorney Peter Smith.

Four people linked to a Pennsylvania racetrack, including three thoroughbred trainers, stand accused of devising a scheme to defraud people betting on races.

The allegations center on the alleged administration of banned substances to horses with 24 hours of racing, and the alleged posting of bogus track training times on which punters relied for betting.

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced the unsealing of indictments in the case on Friday.

The office has charged three thoroughbred trainers and an employee of Penn National Racetrack in Grantville with fraud in connection with horse races at the venue.

The indictments were returned by a federal grand jury in Harrisburg on Wednesday and were unsealed following arrests of four individuals early on Friday.

United States Attorney Peter Smith named the accused as David Wells, 39, of Grantville, Sam Webb, 63, of Jonestown, Patricia Anne Rogers, 43, of Hummelstown, and Danny Robertson, 63, of Hershey.

They have been charged individually in four separate indictments.

Wells, Webb and Rogers, the trainers, are accused of devising a scheme to defraud those betting on races at the track by attempting to administer, and administering in violation of state racing rules, banned substances into a horse within 24 hours of a race appearance.

The indictment says it is also a violation of state law to rig or attempt to rig a publicly exhibited contest such as a thoroughbred race.

Races at Penn National Racetrack are simulcast to about 116 sites across the United States and in other countries by wire and television to allow the public to wager on the races without being at the track.

According to the indictment, Robertson was employed by the track as the clocker to provide racing officials and others with the official workout times for horses at Penn National – information relied upon by the betting public.

The trainers, like the owners, stand to profit financially from the purse offered for a race if the horse entered finishes in a top-three spot.

The indictment against Webb alleges he was detected by track security staff on May 2 in a stall at the racetrack in possession of hypodermic syringes, needles and bottles of medications preparing to inject a horse named Papaleo. Webb trained Papaleo and he was scheduled to run in the sixth race that day. The horse was scratched by race officials.

The indictment against Rogers alleges she was found in similar circumstances by track security personnel on August 21, and was observed injecting or attempting to inject a substance into Strong Resolve. She trained the horse, which was scheduled to run in the second race that day. The horse was scratched by officials.

Rogers was also charged with conspiring with a person known to the grand jury to attempt to commit wire fraud.

The indictment against Wells, both a trainer and horse owner, alleges that for several years up to and including February 2012, he would routinely inject banned substances into horses he trained and other horses he both trained and owned, by use of syringes and needles.

It is also alleged that he was routinely in possession of those prohibited items at the racetrack in violation of state rules, regulations and laws.

The indictment against Robertson states he was an employee of the racetrack, working as a clocker. Duties included being present when horses had their official workout.

Robertson was to verify that the horse being timed was the actual horse the trainer represented it to be, to accurately record the distance each horse ran, the time it ran, and then to provide that information to racing officials for inclusion in the official public daily racing program.

Robertson also allegedly sent the workout times interstate by wire via computer to Equibase, a Kentucky-based company that provides information on a racehorse’s past performance and workout times to media outlets and publications as well as on its own website.

The workout time information is relied on by the betting public in deciding which horses to wager on in any given race.

The Robertson indictment alleges that Robertson, in exchange for cash given to him by trainers known and unknown to the grand jury, would provide false workout times to racing officials and to Equibase.

The times Robertson turned in, at times, included completely fabricated times for horses that did not workout at all at the track, the indictment alleges.

The indictment claims Robertson profited personally from the scheme, the betting public was defrauded, and Robertson’s employer, Hollywood Casino and Racetrack, was denied of its right to Robertson’s honest services.

The investigation is continuing and is being conducted by the Harrisburg office of the FBI, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s Horse Racing Commission, the Pennsylvania State Police, the Dauphin County District Attorney’s Office, and the US Department of Agriculture.

Each defendant faces up to 20 years imprisonment and a $US250,000 fine if convicted of wire fraud or attempted wire fraud.

They each face an additional five years of imprisonment and a $US250,000 fine if convicted of using and attempting to use the intestate wire mechanism provided by the simulcasting of races to defraud or for attempting to defraud the public through the rigging of a publicly exhibited contest.

Rogers faces an additional potential 20-year jail term and a $US250,000 fine if convicted of conspiring to commit wire fraud.

The prosecution in the case has been assigned to Assistant US Attorney William Behe.

The case has been assigned to Senior US District Court Judge William Caldwell.



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