11/25/2002 12:00AM

Delaware probes 1999 firing

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NEW YORK - The Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission has begun an inquiry into the firing of an Autotote employee at Delaware Park in 1999 for attempting to redeem uncashed bets, the chairman of the commission said Monday.

The chairman, Bernard Haney, said he has asked the commission's administrator of racing, John Wayne, to launch the inquiry immediately.

"Unfortunately, we didn't know about this until last week," Haney said. "We need an investigation to dig into this and understand exactly what happened."

Delaware Park officials said last week that the employee, whom they did not identify, was found in an administrator's room at the track printing out tickets that were identified as uncashed wagers. Delaware officials notified Autotote officials, who fired the employee immediately.

Uncashed tickets are usually stored for at least a year on tote computers. After the year, the tickets are normally turned over to the state racing commission or to horsemen.

Haney criticized Autotote for failing to notify the commission that it had fired one of its employees. The employee likely received a license from the commission, but Haney said the commission still has not been told the employee's name.

"We certainly would have expected to have been notified," Haney said. "I still do not know why we weren't informed."

Autotote officials declined to comment on Monday. Autotote is the largest bet-processing company in the U.S., handling about 65 percents of the wagers in the Thoroughbred industry.

Wayne, a former investigator with the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau, said that the inquiry would take three to four weeks. "We need to find out the facts, construct some sort of report, and then see if there are any leads that need to be followed up," Wayne said. "Talk about a cold case."

The firing has led to additional concerns over the security at Autotote. Last week, another former employee of Autotote, Chris Harn, 29, entered a guilty plea in federal court to two conspiracy charges after admitting that he altered pick four and pick six bets while working at Autotote. Harn also admitted to forging uncashed tickets over the course of a 10-month period in 2001 and 2002. The uncashed tickets were worth nearly $100,000, investigators have said.

One official involved in the Harn investigation said that the existence of a second fired employee at Autotote was generating questions about the company's ability to monitor its workers.