Racehorse owner George Berryhill and jockey Felix E. Pinero were arrested Thursday morning on charges of race fixing and bribery. The arrests came a day after a grand jury issued indictments for Berryhill, Pinero and seven others for allegedly fixing the outcomes of 15 races between January and May at Penn National Race Course.
Each defendant has been charged with one count of racing fixing and bribery, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine up to $250,000, according to David Barasch, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
Berryhill, 70, and Pinero, 30, both from Lebanon, Pa., appeared before a federal magistrate Thursday afternoon and were released without bail on their own recognizance. The remaining defendants will be issued summonses and not arrested. Barasch said he couldn't discuss why only Berryhill and Pinero were arrested, but alluded to concerns that the men would run. He said the indictments, which were issued Wednesday, were sealed until the arrests were made.
The others named in the indictment were owner Neil McElwee, 46, of Harrisburg; and jockeys Ramon Pena, 30, of Harrisburg, Lazaro Vives, 28, of Hummelstown, Pa., Luis D. Morales, 22, of Grantville, Pa., Rocky J. Jurado, 23, of Massachusetts, Manuel F. Torres, 34, of New York, and Andres Reyes, 28, of Palmyra, Pa.
In the indictment, Berryhill and McElwee allegedly gave money to Pena who then approached the riders of the favorites and/or top contenders in selected races. In exchange for the bribe, the jockeys allegedly kept their horses from finishing first, second, or third in order to increase the payouts on winning exacta and trifecta tickets, according to Barasch.
The defendants not arrested are expected to be arraigned within the next couple weeks and a trial could begin two or three months from now. More indictments are possible, though Barasch said he could not comment further.
"I can tell you the investigation is on-going," he said.
Indictments for race fixing have not been issued in Pennsylvania's middle district since 1984. Back then, the case also involved Penn National but no races were actually fixed, according to Barasch and Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture spokesman Jon Casey.