09/24/2003 11:00PM

NYRA, feds continue talks


NEW YORK - Top officials of the New York Racing Association met with federal prosecutors on Thursday in Brooklyn to present a reorganization plan in the hopes of avoiding criminal charges related to convictions of mutuel tellers over the past three years, according to a NYRA board member.

The meeting was the third between federal prosecutors and NYRA officials since the spring, and it came one day after the NYRA board met to discuss a reorganization plan that would remove Terry Meyocks, NYRA's president and chief operating officer, from many of the administrative responsibilities at NYRA's three racetracks, including oversight of the mutuel room and its cash policies.

The outcome of the meeting was unclear late Thursday afternoon. NYRA officials and the association's attorney, Denis J. McInerney, did not return phone calls.

Bill Muller, the executive assistant to Roslynn Mauskopf, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, would neither confirm nor deny that a meeting took place. He said the attorney's office does not comment on investigations.

NYRA is seeking an arrangement with the U.S. attorney that would allow it to avoid any indictments of its top officers, according to NYRA board members. The U.S. attorney's office has never publicly commented on the possibility of issuing an indictment.

The potential for an indictment has already had a significant impact on NYRA's business. In August, MGM Grand, which had partnered with NYRA to develop a slot-machine parlor at Aqueduct, one of the three tracks operated by the association, pulled out of the project citing legal concerns.

The board meeting on Wednesday was meant to address those concerns. Among the issues discussed, board members said, was a plan to create a new position for Meyocks that would put him in charge of the racing department while stripping away his responsibilities for NYRA's security and business administration.

In a statement issued on Thursday, Meyocks said that he would be willing to accept a different role.

"Other than my family, the success of NYRA is the most important thing for me," Meyocks said. "If this reorganization in any way will strengthen or enhance NYRA, then that is what should be done."

NYRA has been under fire from state and federal regulators since early this summer. Criticism of the association and Meyocks in particular began with a report by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer that faulted NYRA for lax oversight of its mutuel tellers and security procedures.

Since 2000, 16 NYRA mutuel tellers have been convicted of income-tax evasion and three tellers have been convicted of money laundering. In the tax scheme, the tellers would take money from their cash boxes, be docked equivalent amounts from their paychecks and fail to report the cash as income.