04/08/2015 1:40PM

Former jockey Valdes sentenced in race-fixing case


Former Thoroughbred jockey Ricardo Alfredo Valdes, one of three men indicted in May 2009 in separate criminal cases involving an array of alleged illegal activity including attempting to influence the outcome of horse races in Michigan and Florida, was sentenced Tuesday to one year plus one day in federal prison and an additional three years of supervised release. The sentence was handed down by U.S. District Judge Mark A. Goldsmith in Detroit. 

Valdes was one of seven riders – including Derek C. Bell, Jorge G. Bracho, Luis A. Castillo, Jose H. Delgado, T.D. Houghton, and Joseph Judice – evicted from Tampa Bay Downs in December 2006. Although no specific reason for eviction was given, track management invoked its legal right to do so as a property owner under the private property exclusion. 

Valdes, 49, the lone rider against whom charges were filed, was named in a 34-page federal indictment filed May 6, 2009. He was indicted on 19 counts. Under a plea agreement, Valdes pleaded guilty to attempt and conspiracy to commit mail fraud.

As part of the plea agreement, 18 other charges – including bribery in sporting contests and racketeering – were dismissed. Valdes faced a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the mail fraud charge.

Valdes’s attorney, Stephen T. Rabaut of Clinton Township, Mich., did not return calls seeking comment.

Tampa Bay Downs management also had no comment.

“Mr. Valdes compromised the integrity of his sport by accepting bribes to fix the outcome of races,” said Barbara L. McQuade, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. “Crimes like this one are significant because they not only affect fair play, but they also undermine public confidence in the sport itself.”

Valdes last competed as a jockey in North America in 2006. During his career, he rode 726 winners from 5,864 mounts, for purse earnings of $6.7 million.

Prior to being evicted by Tampa management in December 2006, several of the affected riders said they were questioned by officials from the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau. The questions concerned a race-fixing investigation that involved races at Great Lakes Downs in Muskegon, Mich., and Tampa Bay Downs.

Two other defendants, Ghazi Manni and Mitchell E. Karam, were each indicted on 19 counts in separate but related criminal cases in May 2009. Among the charges was influencing, or attempting to influence, the outcome of University of Toledo football and basketball games.  Both men pleaded guilty and are scheduled for sentencing on May 26.

According to Valdes’s plea agreement, beginning in 2003 and continuing through at least 2006, Valdes and Manni “placed telephone calls between Michigan and Florida, and between Michigan and Delaware, to discuss matters relating to fixing horse races. During the same time period, the defendant [Valdes] received money orders and wire transfers sent by Manni from Michigan to the defendant in Florida and other states. During the time period from 2003 through at least 2006, the defendant received money and other things of value from Manni in exchange for his providing insider information and influencing the outcome of races while performing as a jockey by handling his mounts other than for the purpose of winning in certain races.”

Valdes was a member of the Jockeys’ Guild when he was evicted by Tampa Bay Downs. 

Terry Meyocks, national manager of the Jockeys’ Guild, upon learning of Valdes’s sentence said, “Due process is very important. If someone is proven guilty, they should pay the consequences. In this case, people’s careers [six riders never formally charged with any crime] were affected, which is unfortunate.”