11/23/2010 3:19PM

Louisiana horsemen relieve Alfortish of his duties


The board of directors of the Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association has asked president Sean Alfortish to resign from his seat following the Nov. 18 release of a 29-count indictment against him and the organization’s executive director, Mona Romero, that alleges mail fraud. The case stems from an HBPA election in 2008.

Alfortish, who also was employed by the Louisiana HBPA as its director of simulcasting and director of workers’ compensation, was “relieved of his duties” after a Monday vote of the board, according to a Louisiana HBPA representative who spoke on the condition of anonymity as the organization is not officially commenting on the matter. Romero was also removed from her paid position as the executive director, the source said, as were Cricket Romero and Ruth Winfrey, who are employees of the Louisiana HBPA.

A call to Alfortish and his attorney, Patrick Fanning, was not immediately returned on Tuesday. Alfortish and Romero are scheduled to be arraigned on Dec. 2.

Alfortish, 43, has been president of the Louisiana HBPA since 2005, while Romero, 52, became executive director the same year. A federal grand jury returned an indictment against them on Nov. 18 that included a charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud.

The case dates back to the 2008 Louisiana HBPA election in which Alfortish and Romero allegedly conspired with others to “rig the outcome,” according to a release issued by U.S. Attorney Jim Letten. To be valid, ballots had to bear both a U.S. Postal Service postmark and the Social Security number of an HBPA member eligible to vote. Alfortish and Romero were charged with using the Social Security numbers of some members without their “knowledge or consent.” The indictment also alleges that Romero and others flew to various out-of-state cities to mail the falsified ballots.

Alfortish and Romero were also charged with health care fraud concerning payments out of the Louisiana Horsemen’s Medical Benefit trust account that has allegedly caused payments of some claims to be delayed and led to some coverage being reduced. The indictment also alleges a wire fraud scheme tied to distribution of relief funds after Hurricane Katrina.

If convicted of the 29 counts, Alfortish and Romero face maximum penalties of 280 years in prison and $7.25 million in fines, according the release.