By Carlos E. Medina
Fred Brei, president of the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association, acknowledged in a posting on the association’s website that a former employee was fired for admitting to embezzling funds more than a year ago.
“At that time, we terminated that employee in the most expeditious manner possible. I assure you that staff brought this to the board’s attention at the time, and it was dealt with at that time,” the post states.
The employee was not named and the suspected embezzlement was not reported to the authorities. Rather, the incident was handled internally. Reports indicate the employee used a fictitious company to funnel FTBOA funds.
“Under the separation agreement, which included some restitution, it is stipulated that if any new evidence was discovered, the board can revisit the situation. After tax season, we will be working on quantifying exactly, if possible, the exact amount we got hit for,” the posting states.
How much restitution was made was not stated and Brei did not comment further on the issue, citing the ongoing internal investigation.
“There was an admission at the time and until we unravel it, it would not be appropriate to comment on that,” Brei said.
Despite the alleged embezzlement occurring more than a year earlier, there has not been an accounting of how much was taken or for how long the reported embezzlement was going on.
The incident came to light in the wake of a member-led special meeting in December where members voiced their objections to the way the association was being run.
The latest update also states that the audit committee, which includes board members and an accountant aligned with the members, have completed a review of the operating accounts for the FTBOA and its subsidiaries and no evidence of mismanagement by senior administration was found.
The committee, however, recommended unspecified “improvements” to the association’s accounting system. It was not clear if those changes would have caught the alleged embezzlement, which came to light only after another employee became suspicious.
The FTBOA maintains the official registry of Florida-bred Thoroughbreds and distributes breeder and owner awards in the state. The association charges fees and dues from its members to help conduct its operations. How that money, along with money collected from racetracks in the state, is used is at the center of the dispute.
Members argued they deserve a better accounting of the money, but have said their past inquiries were met with incomplete or unclear records. Brei has pledged to make the association more transparent and his reports are a move in that direction.