Four at Penn National Face Federal Charges

Four at Penn National Face Federal Charges
Photo: Chad Harmon

Three trainers and a clocker based at Penn National Race Course were arrested Nov. 22, after a federal grand jury indicted them on fraud charges in connection with races and workouts at the Grantville, Pa., track.

Peter Smith, U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, said trainers David Wells, Sam Webb, and Patricia Anne Rogers, as well as track clocker Danny Robertson were arrested and charged in four separate indictments.

Wells, Webb, and Rogers were charged with allegedly devising a scheme to defraud those betting on Thoroughbred races at Penn National by attempting to administer, and administering in violation of state racing rules and regulations, substances prohibited from being introduced into a horse within 24 hours of when the horse is scheduled to race.

The indictment alleges it is a violation of state law to rig or attempt to rig a publicly exhibited contest such as a Thoroughbred horse race. Federal authorities are involved because, as the indictment notes, Penn National races are simulcast and wagers accepted at approximately 116 sites across the U.S. and in other countries by wire and television.

According to the indictment, Robertson, 63, of Hershey, Pa., allegedly was given cash to provide false workout times to racing officials and to Equibase. He allegedly, at times, included completely fabricated times for horses who did not work at all at the track. The indictment alleges Robertson profited personally from the scheme, while the betting public and Robertson's employer, the track, were defrauded.

The investigation continues and it is being conducted by the Harrisburg, Pa., office of the FBI, the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission, the state police, the Dauphin County District Attorney, and the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.

Wells, who saddled Special Eclipse Award winner Rapid Redux to 22 straight victories from 2010-2012, is charged with routinely injecting prohibited substances into horses he trained and other horses he both trained and owned for several years through Feb. 2012, by use of hypodermic syringes and needles and otherwise. 

It also is alleged that Wells, who ranked fourth at the track in purse earnings this year with $1,021,671, was routinely in possession of those prohibited items at the racetrack in violation of state rules, regulations, and laws.

The indictment charging Webb alleges he was detected by track security personnel on May 2, 2013, in a stall at the racetrack in possession of hypodermic syringes, needles, and bottles of medications preparing to inject the horse Papaleo, which Webb trained and who was scheduled to run in the sixth race that day. The horse was scratched from the race by racing officials. 

The indictment charging Rogers alleges she was caught by track security on Aug. 21, 2013, at a stall at the racetrack in possession of hypodermic syringes and needles and bottles of medications and was observed injecting or attempting to inject a substance into a horse named Strong Resolve, trained by her husband, J. Michael Rogers. The horse was scratched from the race by racing officials. Patricia Rogers was also charged with conspiring with a person known to the grand jury to attempt to commit wire fraud.

(The indictment identifies Patricia Rogers as the trainer of Strong Resolve although her husband has been the only listed trainer of the horse in his starts since May 25, 2013.)

The indictment noted Robertson communicated his allegedly fraudulent workout times over state lines to Equibase.com, which lists workouts each day.

Penn National spokesperson Dan Silver said the track is aware of the arrests and Robertson has been suspended.

"The employee has been suspended without pay pending the outcome of the investigation," Silver said. "The trainers in question are not employees at Penn National. Management is awaiting taking any possible action pending determination by the Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission on the status of the trainers' licenses.

"Hollywood Casino takes this matter very seriously and will cooperate fully with law enforcement for the swift settlement of these issues."

Each defendant faces up to 20 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine if convicted of wire fraud or attempted wire fraud. Each defendant faces an additional five years imprisonment and a $250,000 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 in violation of state law.

Rogers faces an additional potential 20-year term of imprisonment and a $250,000 fine if convicted of the charge of conspiring to commit wire fraud. 

The Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission suspended the licenses of all four indicted individuals Friday.

The Pennsylvania Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association said rules it helped put in place on race-day furosemide administration helped investigators uncover alleged violations.

"Security protocols we put in place to enforce the program essentially prohibit individuals other than the designated veterinarian from being in a horse stall on race day," the Pennsylvania HBPA statement said. "In fact, it was these security protocols that led to security personnel catching two of the indicted individuals in horse stalls on race day. The horses were subsequently scratched and denied the ability to race on those days while the individual trainers were brought before the Pennsylvania Racing Commission."

Prosecution has been assigned to Assistant U.S. Attorney William A. Behe. The case has been assigned to Senior U.S. District Court Judge William W. Caldwell. 

The Pennsylvania Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association released the following statement the evening of Nov. 22 in response to the indictment:

"The PA HBPA believes strongly that it is of the utmost importance to the integrity of horseracing, the betting public, and racing fans for the racing industry to remain strictly vigilant in regards to the improper use of medications or other performance enhancing drugs. 

"We believe we run a great program here at Penn National that delivers high quality, competitive races to the betting public here in Pennsylvania and across the country. The PA HBPA works closely with the Pennsylvania Racing Commission on a daily basis to ensure that the rules and regulations governing horse racing are effectively enforced so that each of our members can enjoy a level playing field.

"The PA HBPA takes seriously our responsibility to serve as good stewards of the money we receive from the Race Horse Development Fund and we are proud of the substantial economic impact and job growth our industry has generated in Pennsylvania. As part of our stewardship efforts, the PA HBPA worked proactively with the management of Penn National Race Course to establish a new program to ensure that Lasix was properly administered and to prohibit the use of other medications on race day.

"Our Lasix program was put in place two years ago and requires that Lasix can only be administered by specific designated veterinarians. This was done to help ensure Lasix was not used improperly on race days and maintain the integrity of the sport. Prior to the new program, Lasix was administered by a range of individuals with inadequate oversight.

"Security protocols we put in place to enforce the program essentially prohibit individuals other than the designated veterinarian from being in a horse stall on race day. In fact, it was these security protocols that led to security personnel catching two of the indicted individuals in horse stalls on race day. The horses were subsequently scratched and denied the ability to race on those days while the individual trainers were brought before the Pennsylvania Racing Commission. 

"Following the implementation of our Lasix program, the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, the Association of Racing Commissioners International, and the International Federations of Horseracing Authorities jointly issued a model regulation related to the administration of Lasix on race days. While many racing authorities are still in the process of reviewing these model regulations, the PA HBPA and Penn National acted to voluntarily put these restriction in place because we thought it was vital to the integrity of our sport. We take our responsibility and stewardship of the sport very seriously and our actions, such as the new Lasix program and security protocols we adopted, demonstrate our commitment."

The news release from the U.S. Attorney on the indictments.

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