Updated on 09/16/2011 8:36AM

Bettor, tote worker linked

Email

NEW YORK - Derrick Davis, who made the suspicious, winning wager on the Breeders' Cup pick six Oct. 26, and Chris Harn, a computer programmer who was fired by Autotote on Thursday, were fraternity brothers at Drexel University in Philadelphia in the early 1990's, according to the school's records.

The link between Davis and Harn is an important development for officials of the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, who have been investigating the case since last Sunday, because it establishes a connection between the person who placed the wager, worth $3.1 million, and someone with the knowledge and opportunity to alter it. Autotote provides totalizator services for Catskill Off-Track Betting Corporation in New York, which took Davis's bet.

Davis and Harn have emerged as the central figures in a rapidly moving investigation that has transfixed the racing world. Neither Davis nor Harn, both 29, graduated from Drexel, according to the records, which were confirmed by the school's human resources department. But their paths crossed for at least 16 months, from September 1992 until December 1993, when both were members of Tau Kappa Epsilon, the records show. Phone calls to the fraternity Friday were unanswered. The fraternity is popular with business, engineering, and information technology students, according to the roster of its members on the fraternity's website.

Davis was identified on Monday by racing officials as the person who purchased the winning ticket through a phone account at Catskill OTB.

Harn, whose identity was confirmed by investigators on Friday, was first linked to the investigation after his employer, Autotote, fired him on Thursday and turned over information to the board about his potential involvement in altering the winning ticket. Lorne Weil, the company's chairman, declined to identify Harn at the time but said he "had the necessary password and the capability to do what he did."

According to Drexel records, Harn attended the school from 1991 to 1997, majoring in information systems. Davis attended Drexel from September of 1992 until December of 1993. He never declared a major.

Harn, reached by phone in Newark, Del., declined to comment on Friday and referred questions to his lawyer, Daniel Conti.

Conti, reached in his office in New York, said that he would not respond to specific questions. In a statement, Conti said he believed that Harn would be cleared of any wrongdoing.

"The past 24 hours have been very difficult for Chris and his family," Conti said. "He's been fired from his job, and he now finds himself the target of a criminal investigation. Suppositions abound, yet no one has referred to a single shred of legally recognizable evidence that Chris has done anything wrong."

Davis has so far declined to comment. His lawyer, Steve A. Allen of Baltimore, declined to answer specific questions Friday.

"It's my client's position that he made a legitimate bet," Allen said. "He's concerned about the allegations that you are circulating. He believes that they are damaging, and we are confident that when this investigation is complete it will show that he has done nothing wrong."

The investigation has shaken the confidence of many longtime bettors and raised serious questions about the security of the electronic systems that process billions of dollars in wagers made every year on horse racing in the United States.

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association and its partner, Breeders' Cup, which market the sport and conduct the season-ending championship races, announced on Friday that they would form a for parimutuel wagering.

Two former co-workers of Harn described him as quiet and somewhat shy, a member of the upper tier of Autotote's software engineering corps. "He knew the system in and out," said one former co-worker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "He was very bright." The co-worker said he believed that Harn was hired just after leaving Drexel in 1997.

The other former co-worker said that Harn was often on duty on weekends, when one on-call technician would sometimes have the entire office to himself. It was unclear, however, if Harn was working on Oct. 26, when the Breeders' Cup was run at Arlington Park outside Chicago.

"It's not like there's a guard at the building or anything and it's locked down," said the second co-worker. "You go in there, you're on call, and it's like being the Maytag salesman. Ninety-nine percent of the time, you sit there with absolutely nothing to do."

The second former co-worker recalled that Harn could "get on a computer anywhere he was and dial into the system and do whatever he wanted to do."

Tote experts said that a properly trained technician, working from Autotote's headquarters in Delaware, could have retrieved the wager by entering Autotote's system and searching through a Catskill computer file containing the pick 6 bets. The bets are identified by serial number.

A technician would have had to alter the ticket before Catskill was told to send its pick six data into the national commingled hub at Arlington Park. That would have happened sometime between 4:30 and 5 p.m. Eastern time.

Investigators have said that Davis purchased a ticket through his Catskill phone account approximately 20 minutes before betting closed on the pick six, at 2:14 p.m. Eastern. The ticket used only one horse in each of the first four races of the pick-six sequence and all horses in the final two races. The bet was made in a $12 denomination, meaning Davis bought six $2 tickets, at a cost of $1,152.

According to tote officials, somone could have altered the ticket as much as 2 1/2 hours later, changing the betting numbers of the horses in the first four races so that they matched the winners. The winning horses included Domedriver in the Breeders' Cup Mile, which paid $54, and Starine, the winner of the Filly and Mare Turf, at $28.40.

A skilled computer technician, or hacker, can alter pick six tickets because of a security gap in the tote system involving pick six and other multirace wagers, tote officials said. While the cost of these tickets is merged into the commingled hub within minutes, the actual horses used on the tickets, which can have millions of permutations, are not transmitted until after one or more races are run. For the pick six, the betting numbers of the horses are not transmitted until after four races are run to reduce traffic on the network.

Before the bets are sent in, they are vulnerable to tampering from insiders, tote officials said.

"Not immediately transferring the data and letting it sit in limbo was an accident waiting to happen," Weil said.

As of Friday afternoon, no criminal charges had been filed in the case, according to Stacy Clifford, a spokeswoman for the New York State Racing and Wagering Board. Clifford declined to provide further details about the investigation. However, Clifford did dispute some published reports that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was involved in the investigation. "That is definitely not true," Clifford said.

A spokeswoman for the New York State Police, which received some of the information from Autotote about Harn, declined to comment on the investigation, except to say that "we are assisting the board. This is their case."