01/18/2005 12:00AM

Big A trio pleads not guilty

Email

NEW YORK - Trainer Greg Martin, Thoroughbred owner Gerald Uvari, and harness driver Rene Poulin pleaded not guilty in federal court on Tuesday to charges of conspiracy and fraud in the alleged milkshaking incident involving the Martin-trained A One Rocket at Aqueduct in December 2003.

Martin, Uvari, and Poulin were three of 17 defendants who appeared before Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum in Manhattan Federal Court after being indicted last week in an illegal gambling ring.

All 17 pleaded not guilty to a variety of charges and were ordered to appear back in court on March 23.

David Raskin, the lead prosecutor in the case, said he needed two months to put together discovery. Raskin indicated that a large part of the evidence in this case has been obtained through "recordings of telephone intercepts."

Raskin also said that information from the federal trial involving Racing Services Inc., a defunct North Dakota rebate betting shop that was alleged to have handled $100 million in illegal wagers and is mentioned in this indictment, could "affect some of the defendants here." That trial began Tuesday in Fargo, N.D.

A large part of this case centers around an alleged illegal gambling business headed by Uvari, which, according to the indictment, brokered more than $200 million in illegal bets on horse racing and other sports over a four-year period.

Uvari, who had held a valid owner's license since 1992, was charged in 85 of the indictment's 88 counts. He was arrested last week in his home state of Florida and appeared in court Tuesday with his brother Cesare, who lives in New Jersey, and Gerald's son Anthony, who lives in Las Vegas. All three Uvaris are alleged to be associates of the Gambino organized crime family.

"When all the facts are known, my client will be exonerated,'" said Paul Brenner, the attorney representing Gerald Uvari. "He's lived an exemplary life. I do believe he will be cleared."

Martin's involvement stems from an incident on Dec. 18, 2003, in which A One Rocket is alleged to have been given a milkshake prior to winning a $12,500 claiming race by 10 lengths. A milkshake is a mixture of sodium bicarbonate, sugar, and electrolytes. Members of the Uvari group then encouraged people to bet on the horse, who paid $5.80 to win.

Martin's license - along with Uvari's and Poulin's - was suspended by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board last week.

The New York Racing Association has ordered Martin to disperse all of his horses. Moreover, they cannot be turned over to family members such Greg's father, Frank, brother Jose, or nephew Carlos, all of whom are trainers. The majority of Martin's 19 horses have been transferred to Bob Klesaris, Dominick Schettino, and John Terranova.