Penn National Official Gets Four Months In Prison; Feds Continue Investigation

by | 02.18.2016 | 4:02pm

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that a racing official at Penn National race track in Grantville, was sentenced to four months in prison today by Chief U.S. District Court Judge Christopher C. Conner.

According to United States Attorney Peter Smith, Craig Lytel, age 61, of Hershey, Pa., was an employee of the Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Track who served as a racing official at the track. Lytel pled guilty in September 2015 to wire fraud for accepting money and other gratuities in exchange for providing inside information to trainers on which races to enter their horses in order to have a better chance at winning.

On one occasion Lytel was the recipient of an interstate wire transfer of $1,000 from a bank in Kentucky to Lytel's bank in Pennsylvania in exchange for providing inside information on the makeup of horse races at Penn National.

Lytel admitted to accepting cash, dinners, gift cards and golf outings in exchange for the information thereby depriving his employer of his honest service and defrauding other horsemen and the betting public. The identities of the trainers who paid Lytel for the information was not disclosed by the government as the investigation is ongoing.

Lytel was sentenced to serve four months in a federal prison and was ordered to surrender at the institution selected by the Bureau of Prisons by 10 a.m. on March 23, 2016.

The case was investigated by the Harrisburg Resident Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission as part of an ongoing investigation of racing at Penn National.

Prosecution of the case was handled by Assistant United States Attorney William A.
Behe.

  • JW

    Craig Lytle for a thousand bucks, dinners, and a round golf in exchange for information on horses entered in races prior to the entries being drawn gets prosecuted in Federal Court, and sentenced to prison. This information on who is entered in races is available free of charge in racing office’s all across the country. Racing Officials including Racing Secretaries call Trainers daily asking for horses to be entered, often in order to convince Trainers to enter horses these Racing Officials will reveal who is already entered into the races. Whoever was paying Lytle for this information must have money to burn.
    One would think with all the crimes being committed The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Pennsylvania could be use their resources.

    • Pauly Walnuts

      This is false. They skirt it by saying “it’s a soft spot” but you cross a whole new line when you are naming horses in the field before entries are being drawn. Quit being a moron.

      • JW

        Apparently you have never been hustled very hard into a race. It does happen.

      • LongTimeEconomist

        No need for name calling.

    • Denver Beckner

      If racing officials are giving out the horses in races when they call to hustle an entry to fill a race they should get fired. It is not a common practice in racing offices. You never give names, acceptable is telling them the riders that are open, maybe your opinion on the race competition but that’s about it.

      • LongTimeEconomist

        Number of horses entered would also be acceptable information, don’t you think?

        • johnnyknj

          They all give # of entries, so you have an idea if the race will go.

        • Denver Beckner

          Absolutely, everyone wants a short field, most of the time that’s the issue. If a trainer wasn’t thinking about a particular race, he or she might be convinced if it’s a short field. You’d be surprised how many hustled horses win.

          • LongTimeEconomist

            Ever have a horse get hustled for a race for which he wasn’t eligible? Happened to me. He didn’t win, but he was in the money and apparently no one but me ever noticed that he wasn’t eligible.

          • Mark

            Have won many hustled into races. Never cared about who was in race ….normally how many and will I get a check!!

    • Alex

      The Pennsylvania U.S. Attorney’s Office may be working their way from the bottom up. At least that’s all we could hope for considering the expenses involved for the taxpayers.

    • morethanready

      A pretty naive comment; I had this happen to me w/ a Beattie horse that shouldn’t of been eligible. It cost us 6K- we finished second. It’s the tip of the iceberg.

      • Concerned Observer

        What is even more naive is that the trainers and owners do not understand that they are the ones that lose the most financially when the cheaters get away with it. When your horse gets second (because of a cheater on rules or drugs) instead of winning the race with a $10,000 purse. The cheater just stole $4000 dollars our of your wallet. If he had actually taken cash out of your wallet you would have had him arrested. If he stole 10 bags of feed you would have raised a stink!

        • Kevin Callinan

          I’ll never race there again. The horse that beat us was a trainer scratch just a week before… we entered knowing it would cost us shipping but I knew we could beat the horses on the grounds that could race… when I saw the entries and the ineligible entry I called and this guy answered. He said the trainer would be fined $300 but could race. I’m sure the fine was never paid but even if it was I’d bet $300 to win 9K any day.

          • Hamish

            Insiders have ruined the sport and driven fair minded folks away in droves. Now that there is almost nothing left of the game, the most stubborn insiders continue their ways and make pretend all is well. Remember their motto, “That’s the way we always did it.”

          • Jon Miller

            Why would they let a horse run that didn’t fit the conditions? That’s a bunch of crap if that’s true!!

          • Kevin Callinan

            I didn’t say she didn’t fit the conditions; she was ineligible because she was a trainer scratch 7 days before- PN rules state they must sit out at least 10 days. 10-19-13 3rd race, the winner was scratched the prior Sat. Why did they let the leading trainer into such a soft spot with her drop down entry? You can draw your own conclusions.

          • Olebobbowers

            Never saw such a silly rule in my 60+ years on the racetrack…

          • Kevin Callinan

            It’s to discourage trainers from doing exactly what she did- scratching a healthy horse from a tough spot without a penalty. I guess for 60+ years you were willing to play against a stacked deck.

          • johnnyknj

            Ole Bob is confused. All tracks I know of give days for scratches, and have for many years, for the reason you state. However, I have a question: was there a track condition change the day they scratched? If so, they usually give only 2 or 3 days.

          • Kevin Callinan

            Good track. This official acknowledged that they were going to fine the trainer $300 for entering an ineligible horse….. but they still accepted it.

          • Jon Miller

            Kevin did you ever think they broke that rule to fill the race so you could even run?

          • Kevin Callinan

            sure, isn’t that why the guy is going to jail, for breaking rules for a chosen few.

          • Jon Miller

            Sounds like sour grapes Kevin! We knew we could beat all the horses on the grounds come on man! There could of been a ship in from Parx or any other track. You have to remember theses officials need to fill the races.

          • Kevin Callinan

            Nice insiders opinion Jon- just accept the preferential treatment given a leading trainer and wait for the next race. Unfortunately my mare got claimed next out as the favorite after dumping the jock. It’s not sour grapes- its business.

          • Jon Miller

            Most of those trainers were at Penn before Gaming came around. I am sure you shipped to Penn because your cheap mare was running for a purse of 10k when she was provably worth a quarter. I guess the jock fell off on purpose? Run your horse at Thistle for a purse of 4k then!!

          • Kevin Callinan

            she got claimed for 5K so that would make her worth 5 grand Jon.

          • Jon Miller

            Did you claim her back? You shipped to Penn for the inflated purse!

          • Kevin Callinan

            No and yes, of course. Your logic escapes me.

          • Olebobbowers

            Kevin why wasn’t the horse that beat you eligible? If you explain that, it would bring a lot more credence to your story…jus sayin

          • tony a

            What he is saying is that, If you scratch a horse, you must wait 10 days to re-enter, they only waited 7.

          • Olebobbowers

            I wish I was in his shoes, as I filed a civil suit for a lot more than the purse! For openers, they took a tough race out of his horse that can’t be replaced, etc., etc., etc…

        • Bourbon Man

          Or when you pay good money at Keeneland for a sales topper and some hop trainer buries you in your first stakes and the hop horse is never heard from again. People get tired of spending their money when the game is so obviously rigged.

        • Mark Mac

          Owners are looked upon as suckers.

    • Mike

      Wrong and inaccurate statement.

  • Mr. Freely

    Why hasn’t Penn Gaming been investigated for the stunts they have pulled on shady business deals in the state of PA

    • Hamish

      Wonder if the FBI’s are going to bring in any big fish at Penn, or just a net full of minnows that are a dime a dozen in the horse realm? This deal must not be over as it would appear that no real man eating sharks have been landed, yet.

    • nancyfay

      Maybe because he’s a racing OFFICIAL. Maybe they are held to higher standards.

      • Mr. Freely

        Official or not, Penn had to make someone the scapegoat. Too many jocks, trainers, owners and vets have had a slap on the wrist compare to what Lytel got.

        • morethanready

          Not Wells or Rojas

  • Concerned Observer

    Do you think this will be a wake-up call to the “track workers” that have been doing this stuff without any penalty for the last 50 years? I doubt it. Many are slow learners or know there is no appetite to fix these issues. Look how long it took for the insider training/medication scandal at Keeneland to unfold a few years ago.

  • Animosity

    And Pineo was found not guilty of those. Charges so before you mention people by name you should know what you are talking about!

    • Mr. Freely

      While that is correct, his lawyer was also quoted as saying “Clearly, he is not going to return to Penn National” and guess where he is riding!? Five jocks and two owners plead guilty on that occasion and Penn National Gaming in general is someone you cannot trust. Anyone is a fool if you support their product because horse racing is the last thing they want to be in

  • nodouble

    I agree with you 100%

  • AP Indys Missing Nut

    This is all just silly but we’re all forgetting that he claimed his health would not allow him to go to jail meanwhile he’s a personal trainer and thats just funny.

  • garret

    penn national is trying to eliminate racing ! They are only concerned with the casino! If they could stop racing they would .

    • HW

      It’s not just Penn National in Grantville PA that’s trying to kill horse racing. The parent company Penn Gaming is trying to kill racing all over. At the Penn Gaming track in West Virginia Charlestown the best horse in the country at that time Shared Belief broke down on a lose cuppy race track when he slipped in the cuppy lose track as he left the starting gate. Several other horses broke down on the Penn Gaming track Charleston the very same day. On the richest day of racing in West Virginia Penn Gaming’s management at Charlestown had failed to switch from the winter racing surface to the regular racing surface. Why before the the biggest and riches racing day in West Virginia dI’d man age mentioned fail to hAve the track resurfaced? At another Penn Gaming track , Mahoning Valley in Ohio, a gelding who had already broke his maiden, ran and won in another race restricted to maiden fillies and mares. Is Penn Gaming management incompetent or are they really smart and working their plans to get rid of live horse and just have casinos?

  • Kevin Callinan

    You’re the classic insider Tony. The fact that you think it happens everywhere doesn’t make it legal. Don’t confuse camaraderie with legality; the people that are actually trying to pay the bills are hurt financially and only a few prosper.

    • tony a

      And that’s the attitude that hurts the game, people who outside of racing aren’t a pimple on a horse’s butt, walking around with their nose in the air.

  • Thinker

    It’s about time. Penn National needed mucking out and hopefully it will give some integrity to a place that desperately wanted a change. The good old boy syndrome is becoming a thing of the past and the future of the sport of kings demands honesty.

  • Mike

    Tony Stabile that is simply not true. At least it isn’t anywhere I have worked. Maybe it is true for bush tracks I wouldn’t know. But to say that every racing office is guilty of this is incorrect.

  • Alydom

    My first time claiming a horse was Fairmount Park…we were so excited. We had someone other than the trainer drop the ticket. The horses are on the track…and suddenly there’s a late scratch of the horse we were claiming. The trainer of the horse comes over and laughs and says if you want him next week it’ll be in for $5k more. I asked my trainer how he knew…he said the ppl in the racing office are all in cahoots and tipped him off. That’s my welcome to the club moment. Shady business.

    • morethanready

      To quote Tony Stabile below ‘friends help friends’.

  • farmer

    PRIORITIES! People are being raped and stabbed in the streets,gangs and day drugs abound and n the inner city, and 10 miles down the road in n Harrisburg, lobbyists bribe lawmakers. Whats up the FBI doing about that?

    • Bourbon Man

      Look! Over there! It’s a straw man!

  • Bourbon Man

    Thanks for admitting what we already know: it is a “good ole boy” environment and yes, Virginia, favoritism IS bought. The FBI should use a bigger broom, nationwide, to sweep out the filth who think that this business as usual is perfectly okay – it is not.

    • Northern Dancer

      Your right. It’s not okay. This is just the tip of the iceberg. My hope is that the FBI continues to investigate, charge, and prosecute others who are involved with this “business as usual” modus operandi.

      • Hamish

        The old ways of horse behaviors have gotten us where we are today, near extinction. The feds are active, having a look see at our practices all over the place, so we will be lucky if we are even given a chance to reorganize our system and play nice someday. Federal law enforcement authorities will insist on a new way, or they will just take away our toys.

    • McGov

      The authorities go after the low lying fruit…..takes big ones to go after the big ones up top. This guy is simply token bit player. Bit of a kangaroo court over there it seems.

  • Charles Smith

    In the early 80’s, I bought my first race horse, a unraced 3 yo that was in training at Caliente. We hauled her to Pleasanton, one day the trainer called me and said the filly was a couple weeks away from a race. Two days later, I scanned a overnight for the Solano County Fair and was shocked to see her entered in a straight maiden race. When I called the trainer, he said “the racing office needed her “. I was green then, but I came to realize the way of the horse racing world when it comes to racing secretaries hustling horses. If they locked up every person who did what the Penn National racing office guy plead to, you would need a 100 San Quentins to hold them all.

    • Peter Scarnati

      Couldn’t disagree more. I worked in Racing Offices all over the country for 20 years. Not once was I aware of anyone telling a trainer the name of a horse in a race they were hustling. Obviously, I can’t say with 100% certainty that this never happens, but in my experience I can’t see it being as widespread as some here have intimated.

      • Hamish

        O.K., then every racing office in America should be willing to submit to cameras and microphones, taped phone calls and e-mail probes to establish that insider information like existed at Penn is not the norm. The proof is in the pudding, so let’s start with full disclosure and absolute transparency. Folks that don’t want to play by these rules, must be guilty by association and not worthy of further engagement or employment in racing.

        • Peter Scarnati

          Agree on all counts Hamish. Entry clerks which provide the names of horses entered in a race which they are hustling are not worthy of employment in any capacity in the racing industry.

          • morethanready

            I happen to agree with both of you except for the fact that hustling really has nothing to do with this- you can be handed a race if you learn the quality is poor- the quantity doesn’t matter,

      • Charles Smith

        You must have been working at Nirvana Downs, Heavenly Meadows and Blissful Fields, because here on earth iin North America, the sort of thing the the feds got a conviction on at Penn National goes on a great deal, it’s just not pursued by the authorities very often.

        • Peter Scarnati

          Do you base this statement upon personal experience, backstretch rumors or just plain “gut feeling”? Like I said, I just commented on what I personally experienced over the years at places like Belmont, Saratoga, Laurel, Bowie, Pimlico, Hialeah, Monmouth, Meadowlands and yes, even Penn National (in 1981-82) among other places. In today’s world of racing maybe you’re right, but like I said, in my experience I doubt it goes on “a great deal.”

      • LongTimeEconomist

        I know of an incident years ago when a trainer went to enter a horse in an allowance race at a major track and the entry clerk (now retired from a long career in racing) discouraged him from entering without mentioning anything specific. When the entries came out, there was a horse entered in there named Forego.

        • Peter Scarnati

          I remember a time at Delaware in 1982 when we were hustling a top allowance race (with four entered – we were going to use it with five) and a trainer told us he found a “better spot” at Keystone going six furlongs. Turns out a horse named Distinctive Pro, a freak three year old, was in that spot and he just walked his beat.

    • Kevin Callinan

      Let me help you understand what he was paid to do- picture you are in a game of five card stud and are head to head with someone who has paid the dealer. Before you make your bet on the draw of your last card he whispers to your competitor what your hole cards are. It has nothing to do with filling fields.

  • Tony the Tiger

    This kind of thinking is why horse racing has gone from being as popular as baseball to being a sport kids growing up don’t even know exists. Tony has been in the business for 44 years and hasn’t been successful at any of his so-called jobs.

  • billo

    Is there a trainer on this site who hasn’t done this? Give me a break.

  • tony a

    The only people that would go along with your statement are, people who work on the track and owners who are getting the deal, that’s what I call BS.

  • Garrett Redmond

    It is hard to believe the subject brought so many opinions on both sides of the question: Is the business crooked or honest?
    It saddens me to observe that horses, the wonderful, beautiful animals I’ve loved all my life
    are magnets for the rogues, cheats and crooks of the worst kind. My late realization of that has caused me to stop my active participation in the business. So I think everyone should be aware cheating is rampant all through. If we can just be vigilant in preventing cruelty to horses it the most for which we can hope and pray

    • Hamish

      The real cheats will never stop abusing the animal. They don’t look at the horse like it has any feelings or has a soul. The horse is just a way to get at the money or in many cases the notoriety. Stop racing horses, or clean it up completely, are the only real options to save the race horse from intentional abuse.

      • You’re a hypocrite

        Do you eat any form of meat?

        • Garrett Redmond

          You don’t appear to have a name – just a statement directed at Hamish. Maybe that is not a statement, it is your Nom de Plume.
          Can anybody see any relevance to the original subject in the question concerning Hamish’s diet?

  • Kevin Callinan

    Sometimes these discussions take on a life of there own. This guy is not going to spend time in jail for hustling horses in to a race- that was his job, to fill races. The conscious decision that he made was to let the people that paid him in one form or another know who the entries were before the box closed. It is the equivalent of insider trading in racing- you are sharing information that others can speculate on but only you actually know who has entered. The number of horses entered is irrelevant.

  • billy

    Right is right n wrong is wrong do the crime pay the time

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