11/04/2002 12:00AM

A deliberate pace in pick six case

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NEW YORK - The investigation into the suspicious winning wager on the Breeders' Cup pick six has yet to move beyond New York state and reach out to the two men at the center of the controversy, racing and law enforcement officials said on Monday.

The primary suspects are a Maryland resident, who placed the bet by telephone through the Catskill Off-Track Betting Corporation in New York, and a software engineer who was fired last week by Autotote, the Delaware company that processed the bet. The investigation is being conducted by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board because the bet was placed through a New York company.

The board cannot make arrests, cannot charge anyone with a crime, and cannot force anyone outside New York to comply with a request for information, board officials said, which complicates any effort to subpoena telephone or computer records from Maryland, Delaware, or Illinois, where the Breeders' Cup races were run at Arlington Park outside Chicago on Oct. 26.

But Stacy Clifford, a spokeswoman for the board, said that the board's probe would not be compromised by its limited powers.

"Our first step is always to ask, and we hope the person replies with the request," Clifford said, referring to requests for information. "But if they don't, we have to go to other avenues." Clifford said the board has enlisted the New York State Police to help enforce its requests.

The board has so far declined to ask for the services of the FBI., which has broad investigative powers that reach across state lines, according to Clifford and other law enforcement officials.

The board's limited powers have contributed to the investigation's initial regional scope and deliberate pace. Officials involved in the investigation said that the board is hoping to build a case in New York before expanding. That would suggest that any charges resulting from the investigation, if ever filed, may be further down the road than racing fans and officials might expect.

The suspicious bet was made by Derrick Davis, a 29-year-old Baltimore resident who opened a phone account with Catskill a week earlier. Chris Harn, also 29, was linked to the investigation when his employer, Autotote, fired him last Thursday after the company made an internal review of the circumstances surrounding the winning wager. Autotote, the country's largest totalizator company, processes wagers for Catskill.

Davis and Harn, who were fraternity brothers for 16 months at Tau Kappa Epsilon at Drexel University in 1992 and 1993, have denied wrongdoing through their lawyers.

The investigation is certain to concentrate on telephone and computer records that could link Davis and Harn. The probe is also expected to seek any evidence that might be left behind in the totalizator system, the computer network that links the country's racetracks and betting outlets. At issue is whether someone altered the winning pick six ticket after several races had already been run. The evidence could include security logs that track the movements of anyone who gains access to the system.

Investigators have said they believe the winning wager was altered sometime after the fourth race of the Breeders' Cup pick six sequence. The wager used one horse in each of the first four races and every horse in the last two.

The bet, which cost $1,152, was made in a $12 denomination and accounted for all six winning $2 tickets. The wager was worth $3.1 million, but payment has been withheld pending the investigation.

If the ticket was altered, someone would have had to change it before detailed information about the bet was transferred from Catskill to Arlington Park, site of the national wagering hub for the Cup races. The transfer time was approximately 5 p.m. Eastern, after the fourth race in the pick six sequence.

Investigators have already spent a week sifting through records at Catskill OTB and interviewing Catskill employees, according to Don Groth, the Catskill chairman. Groth said on Monday that while Catskill was cooperating "in full," he was surprised that investigators had not moved on yet.

"I think jurisdiction is an issue that is delaying the investigation," Groth said. "I would guess that the investigators are seeking evidence that would allow the federal authorities to take jurisdiction. At some point, you would think that the investigation would move to Delaware and Baltimore for better clues."

Bennett Liebman, a former commissioner who served on the New York State Racing and Wagering Board for 12 years, said that he would be surprised if federal agencies were not already involved.

"We're talking about a Maryland guy placing a bet in New York that is tampered with in Delaware and being hubbed in Illinois," Liebman said on Monday. "It makes no sense for [federal law-enforcement agencies] not to be involved."

Jim Margolin, a spokesman for the F.B.I.'s New York office, declined on Monday to comment about the F.B.I.'s possible involvement, citing policy neither to confirm nor deny ongoing investigations.

A spokesman for Autotote, who declined to be identified, said that the company is "cooperating fully" with the investigation. When asked if that meant that Autotote would turn over documents from its Delaware operations or other remote sites, the spokesman repeated that the company is cooperating fully.

Law enforcement officials said that the New York board will have to turn over the results of its investigation to the police or a state or federal attorney's office before any criminal charges could be brought. The charges would depend on which - if any - crimes were uncovered, the officials said, ranging from federal or state computer fraud to tampering with a sporting event.

"Sometimes these things are tough, because with computer crimes it's often a case of, where is the venue?" a law-enforcement official said. "Where was the person who committed the crime? Where was the victim? Where was the event?"

Also on Monday, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and its partner, Breeders' Cup, said in a statement that a task force to review the security of parimutuel pools and tote systems met on Monday for the first time.

The task force discussed hiring an "independent technical audit firm with specialized experience in testing of information security systems," the statement said. The NTRA said it would make funds available from its budget to hire the company, which was not named. The task force was scheduled to meet again on Thursday.