Bruce Doupe is a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation who has spent the last five of his 13 years at the FBI's Harrisburg, Pa., office investigating what he calls ”allegations of criminal wrongdoing in the conduct of Thoroughbred racing at Penn National Race Course.”
That characterization is taken from testimony Doupe gave Jan. 6, 2016, at a Suppression Hearing sought by the attorney for Murray Rojas, a Penn National Thoroughbred trainer who was indicted in August 2015 on federal wire fraud and conspiracy charges. Two superseding indictments against Rojas have followed (most recently on Feb. 8), with the federal government seeking a $5.2 million judgment against the trainer if she is convicted. The indictments allege that Rojas conspired with veterinarians to illegally administer medication to dozens of horses on race day over a period several years. The wire fraud charges are based on the fact purse money won by horses trained by Rojas in those races was transferred electronically across state lines from one bank to another.
Additionally, Rojas has been charged with misbranding and dispensing drugs without an order of a veterinarian. The drugs mentioned in the indictment include Acetylcysteine, ACTH, Banamine, Dexamethasone, ECP, Estrone, Ketoprofen, Legend, Robaxin and Robinol.
As the Paulick Report previously reported, the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association in April 2016 formed the National Thoroughbred Owners & Trainers Legal Defense Fund Foundation, Inc. The fund is helping pay attorney fees for Rojas, who pleaded not guilty to the federal charges against her.
Eric Hamelback, CEO of the National HBPA, previously declined to discuss the legal defense fund or the Rojas case with the Paulick Report, referring all questions to the National HBPA's attorney. He then said in a subsequent radio interview that our reporting on the legal defense fund was “one-sided.”
He also said in the radio interview that the National HBPA is not necessarily defending Rojas but trying to protect other horsemen from a possible precedent-setting case in which violations of state regulatory rules on medication could be considered a federal crime – not just in Pennsylvania, but in any racing state.
Who exactly is Murray Rojas and how did she become a target of the FBI?
Doupe's sworn statements in the Suppression Hearing paint an interesting picture. (Rojas, incidentally, prevailed in a motion to suppress when Sylvia Rambo, U.S. District Judge for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, ordered certain statements Rojas made to the FBI are inadmissible at trial.)
Rojas previously declined to comment about her case when contacted by the Paulick Report.
Following are some excerpts from the Suppression Hearing:
William Behe from the U.S. Attorney's Office asked FBI special agent Doupe, who had been talking to Rojas about Penn National since 2012, “How would you describe your relationship with her?”
Doupe responded: “Very cordial. Murray had made some overtures that she would like to cooperate and clean up the racing industry, the horse racing industry.”
Behe asked Doupe why he met with Rojas at the Harrisburg FBI office in April 2015. An employee of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, which was also investigating Penn National, was present for the interview.
Doupe: “If I can go back to 2012, she had provided me information since 2012 regarding allegations of criminal misconduct conducted by other horsemen, trainers, owners, etc. And I've used that information. (Editor's Note: a federal grand jury indicted a clocker, a racing official, and several veterinarians and trainers.)
“Prior to April, just shortly before April 2015, we had done an investigation that involved some veterinarians that were treating horses at Penn National,” Doupe continued. “They had provided me information. They have cooperated.
“And part of their cooperation, I have obtained medical documents of treatments done by the veterinarians to horse owners and trainers out at Penn National. One of those trainers was Murray Rojas. I wanted to discuss with Murray that the information that she had provided me, and I took it to be truthful and accurate, I felt a little deceived by her because in the medical records was information that she was conducting the same type of criminal activity that she was giving me information on other people.”
“What do you mean by that?” Behe asked.
Doupe: “Well, she's telling me about individuals, possible other horsemen trainers that were treating their horses on race day, I believe one or two of them had rented stalls at her farm. And when I looked at the medical records, I had seen that she was also treating the horses on racing day in violation of the racing rules and regulations.”
Behe later asked Doupe if Rojas “made any admissions regarding the administration of drugs to horses on race days.”
“She did,” said Doupe.
“What did she tell you?” asked Behe.
Doupe: “She told me she didn't like the word juicing or drugging. I said, okay, treatment. And I told her, from now on, any time I asked her about the word treatment, it would refer to the illegal administration of substances or medications to race horses on race day. I asked her if she had done any of that. She says, you know I did, you have my records, is her response.”
This is the statement Judge Rambo said is inadmissible at trial because the question Doupe asked was too vague and could have referred to instances that were 10 or 20 years ago.
Behe: “And did she say anything about that type of practice going on at that track or elsewhere?”
“She did,” said Doupe. “She said, it goes on every day, and it goes on everywhere, she said, every track.”
Doupe repeated that assertion from Rojas under cross examination by the trainer's attorney, Robert E. Goldman.
“She like to justify her criminal misconduct by stating that this happens everywhere,” said Doupe. “She says everybody does it, I don't see the big deal. She would often tell me that.”
Doupe admitted to Goldman that in 2012 he convinced Rojas she should be comfortable talking to him.
“Basically,” Goldman said to Doupe, “you're telling her, are you not, don't worry about it, we're not going to tell other trainers, we're not going to tell people at the track? You're telling her that information?”
Doupe: “That is true, yes.”
Though Doupe said he and Rojas spoke on an ongoing basis (“She would call me often to give me information. I would call her to see if she heard something about someone or something going on or a rumor.”), she was not listed as “an official cooperating witness or source” in the case. He also insisted he never told Rojas the FBI would not use her information against her in a criminal prosecution.
Goldman accused the FBI of coercion.
“There's different ways you can have a coercive atmosphere,” he said in the Suppression Hearing's closing arguments. “One can be by bullying. One can be by threatening. One can be by coercion. Coercion can also come in what happened here. It's a different type of coercion. It's an interesting and clever way for the FBI.
“In a 2012 interview, you tell somebody that this information is not going to be used against you, it's confidential, it's being held by the FBI, we're soliciting you as an informant or a cooperator or whatever, and you gain the person's confidence and comfort, and you say it's not going to be used against you. You then solicit the person again to come in, again with a Pennsylvania Racing Commission member there. That's the type of individual that Murray said, I don't want to talk in front of.
“The special agent knows that, tells her, ‘Hey, don't worry about it. If you lie to us, we can prosecute you.' But he doesn't change the ground rules. So the coercive atmosphere is, come in, cooperate, admit what you are doing, you get a pass, we keep it confidential, we don't tell anyone, but don't lie to us, because if you lie to us, that gives – that's a psychological coercion which wins her over to have her, or hopefully have her, incriminate herself and to do it under what I contend to be coercion.”
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