Updated on 11/27/2013 9:46AM

Three Penn National trainers arrested and charged by feds


Three trainers at Penn National Race Course in Grantville, Penn., were arrested on Friday morning following the release of indictments charging the trainers with attempting to fix horse races by administering illegal raceday medications to horses, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced on Friday.

The trainers were Patricia Rogers, Sam Webb, and David Wells, who trained Rapid Redux, a popular gelding who was retired in 2012 after setting a modern U.S. record of 22 straight wins.

Rapid Redux was given a Special Eclipse Award in 2011 for his winning streak.

All three are facing a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted, the U.S. attorney’s office said. Rogers could face an additional 20-year sentence on a separate charge.

The arrests were the culmination of a four-year investigation by the FBI into practices on Penn National’s backstretch, according to officials. The trainers were handcuffed by FBI agents and taken from the grounds, witnesses to the arrests said.

The charges were brought against Rogers, 43, and Webb, 63, after both were caught attempting to administer unidentified substances to horses on raceday earlier this year. Both horses were scratched and did not race.

The indictment claims that Wells, 39, “for several years up to and including February, 2012, would routinely inject prohibited substances into horses he trained and other horses he both trained and owned.” The indictment of Wells did not identify any specific horses that were administered medications on raceday, nor did it identify the medications.

Also indicted was a Penn National clocker, Dan Robertson, who was said to have taken payments from trainers and owners to record false workout times. The indictment said that some of the horses for which he recorded workouts had not worked at the track or that they did not work in the times that he recorded.

Though not unprecedented, the leveling of federal charges for administering illegal medications to racehorses is rare. The U.S. attorney said in a release that the charges were based on the fact that Penn National accepts interstate wagers on its races, making the administrations a federal crime.

Although calls to the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission were not returned on Friday, the agency issued four suspensions late in the afternoon to all of the individuals who were indicted. The suspensions began effective immediately and did not have an expiration date; language in the orders indicated that the suspensions would remain in place indefinitely “pending disposition of the criminal charges” against the individuals.

Penn National suspended Robertson without pay on Friday, the track said in a statement. The statement also said that the track is “awaiting taking any possible action” against the three indicted trainers pending a determination by the Pennsylvania Racing Commission on the status of the trainers’ licenses.

Penn National “takes this matter very seriously and we will cooperate fully with law enforcement for swift settlement of these issues,” said the track’s director of racing operations, Dan Silver.

The indictment says that the charge against Webb is based on an incident on May 2 of this year when he was found by track security in a stall with a horse, Papaleo, while “in possession of hypodermic syringes, needles, and bottles of medications.” The horse was scheduled to run in the sixth race but was scratched.

The indictment against Rogers similarly states that she was found in the stall of a horse entered to race on Aug. 2 named Strong Resolve. At the time, she “was observed injecting or attempting to inject a substance” into the horse, the U.S. attorney alleged. That horse was also scratched and did not run.

The administration of medications to racehorses on raceday is restricted in most states to furosemide, the anti-bleeding medication, though some states also allow other therapeutic medications. Trainers in all states are prohibited from possessing hypodermic needles and most kinds of medications, though there are some exceptions.

The indictments were released at a time when many racing states are attempting to crack down on illegal medication use due to criticisms of the sport’s drug-testing policies and enforcement. One day before the release of the indictments, a subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives conducted a hearing to discuss a bill that would give the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, a private non-profit company, the authority to devise the sport’s medication rules and conduct its drug testing. One of the bill’s sponsors is Joseph Pitts, a Republican from Pennsylvania.