Penn National Arrests: One Year Later

by | 11.18.2014 | 2:06pm
Hollywood Casino at Penn National in Grantville, Pa.

It's been a year since three trainers and a clocker at Penn National racetrack in Grantville, Pa., were indicted on federal criminal charges in a wide-ranging investigation that remains active to this day, according to sources.

What's happened since last Nov. 20, when a federal grand jury issued indictments against trainers Samuel Webb, David Wells, and Patricia Rogers, and clocker Danny Robertson on charges they committed wire fraud and used an interstate facility to promote gambling in violation of state law? Webb, Wells, and Rogers were alleged to have treated their horses with medication in violation of state regulations, thereby attempting to affect the outcome of a horse race with interstate wagering, while Robertson was charged with falsifying workouts in exchange for money, and electronically transmitting that workout information across state lines.

–On Wednesday, almost a year to the date that he was indicted, Robertson will be sentenced in U.S. District Court in Harrisburg, Pa. Robertson, an employee of Penn National at the time of the indictment, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud on July 22, 2014, and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. Robertson, over the period from Jan. 1, 2008, to Oct. 17, 2013, allegedly took cash from trainers to provide Equibase with workout times that were “faster or slower than the horse actually worked, or to enter a completely false workout time for a horse that did not work out at all at the track.”

In the other cases:

–Federal charges against Webb were dropped in June 2014 by order of U.S. District Judge William Caldwell, who said prosecutors did not provide evidence in support of the fraud and use of interstate facility charges. Webb, who was observed May 2, 2013, injecting the horse Papaleo on race day and found in possession of numerous syringes and medications, was suspended 60 days for the violation and fined $500 for making “false and misleading” statements to Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission investigators. Webb has not saddled a horse since the date of the 2013 indictment. Papaleo has been transferred to trainer Lucy A. Houle Webb and races in her name.

–Prosecutors in October 2014 agreed to drop charges against Wells in exchange for a guilty plea to comparable charges in the Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas. Judge Caldwell has set a March 9, 2015, deadline for that matter to be resolved. Wells was charged with administering medication within 24 hours of a race and having possession of equipment and substances in violation of Pennsylvania regulations over the period January 2008 to February 2012. The license of Wells, best known as trainer of 2011 Special Eclipse Award-winning claiming horse Rapid Redux, was suspended at the time of his indictment.

–Six motions to continue the case against Rogers have been granted, the most recent delaying her trial from Dec. 1, 2014, to March 9, 2015, as prosecutors and defense attorneys negotiate a plea agreement. Rogers was charged with injecting the horse Strong Resolve on race day and also found to be in possession of numerous syringes and medications. The license of Rogers, an assistant trainer to her husband, J. Michael Rogers, was suspended at the time of the indictments. Strong Resolve has won two of nine starts since the August 2013 incident and continues to race in the name of Rogers' husband.

William Behe, U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania

William Behe, U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania

The lead prosecutor in the Penn National investigation is assistant U.S. Attorney William Behe, who, with the cooperation of the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission, in May 2014 announced indictments against nine individuals for operating an illegal gambling ring, money laundering and conspiracy.

Sources with knowledge of grand jury subpoenas and prosecutorial target letters say dozens more may be indicted before the Penn National case runs its course.

Eclipse Award-winning owner Michael Gill, who dropped out of racing in 2010 after jockeys at Penn National – citing safety concerns – refused to ride in races in which his horses were entered, is the most vocal among those saying further indictments will follow. Gill predicted indictments at Penn National a year before they occurred and is now posting his beliefs in a series of articles and videos at a website he created called State of Corruption. In one of the videos, Gill said he believes there will be “200 arrests in Pennsylvania and other states” in connection with illegal, offshore betting.

Amanda Endy, spokesperson for the U.S. attorney's office, said she could not comment on whether the investigation is ongoing.

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