The U.S. attorney's office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania has announced that seven of nine individuals charged with fixing races at Penn National Racecourse have agreed to plead guilty to the charges.
According to the office of David M. Barasch, signed plea agreements were filed Thursday in federal court in Harrisburg on behalf of those pleading guilty to a charge of fixing races. They were: George D. Berryhill, 70, of Lebanon, Pa.; Neil McElwee, 46, of Harrisburg; Ramon Pena, 30, of Harrisburg; Lazaro Vives, 28, of Hummelstown, Pa.; Luis Morales, 22, of Grantville, La.; Rocky Jurado, 23, of Massachusetts; and Andres Reyes, 28, of Palmyra, Pa.
The U.S. attorney's office said Berryhill and McElwee were horse owners who allegedly selected the races to fix. The two owners would then provide money to jockey Pena, who allegedly approached certain other riders and offer them from $500 to $1,000 to hold back their mounts in selected races. According to the statement, the jockey accepting the bribe would be riding a horse determined by handicappers to win the race or finish in the top three. The outcome of the race would be altered by the jockey accepting the bribe endeavoring to keep his horse from finishing in one of the top three positions, the statement said. Berryhill and McElwee, who purchased winning exacta or trifecta tickets knowing the race had been fixed, would have an increased likelihood of a substantial payout as a result of the jockeys' actions, the U.S. attorney said.
Each defendant faces up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 if convicted. The trial for co-defendant Felix Pinero, 30, of Lebanon, Pa., is scheduled to begin in January. The ninth defendant, Manual F. Torres, 34, of New York, is a fugitive who did not appear before a U.S. magistrate for his Nov. 14 arraignment.
The FBI, Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau, and the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission jointly handled the investigation.