07/03/2017 3:26PM

Trainer Rojas convicted on 14 counts in drug trial

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A federal court jury in Harrisburg, Pa., convicted trainer Murray Rojas of 14 charges in a decision reached late Friday night.

Rojas, 51, was acquitted on seven charges of wire fraud but convicted of misbranding medications and of criminal conspiracy. Rojas was charged and convicted of administering medications to horses she started at Penn National that are not permitted within 24 hours of racing. With the help of four veterinarians, she then backdated records of the drug administrations to obscure the fact that the medications had been given inside the 24-hour window.

The charges of mislabeling and illegally administering several prohibited race-day medications were added last summer to an initial indictment two years ago for wire fraud and criminal conspiracy. The wire-fraud charges, of which Rojas was found not guilty, were based on the transfer across state lines of purse money earned by Rojas’s runners at Penn National who were illegally treated.

Rojas has not yet been sentenced. The counts on which she was convicted are felonies punishable by prison terms of up to three years. The wire-fraud and conspiracy-to-commit-wire-fraud charges of which Rojas was acquitted carry a 20-year maximum sentence.

Rojas, twice the leading trainer at Penn National, hasn’t trained since the indictments were handed down during the summer of 2015. The charges were based on 13 horses who started at Penn National in 2013.

The four veterinarians who conspired with Rojas pleaded guilty to similar charges and are awaiting sentencing.

There has been some question whether the drug-related charges rose to the level of federal offenses and might not have better been suited for a lower court, or even the Pennsylvania Racing Commission. The National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, believing Rojas’s acts didn’t constitute federal crimes, contributed to her defense. In at least a narrow sense, however, the guilty verdict validated prosecutors’ contention that Rojas had been properly charged, while her defense claimed victory in avoiding the wire-fraud conviction. Rojas’s attorney, Robert Goldman, said her conviction would be appealed.

Rojas, who began training in 2000, has won 785 races. She had been assisting a wide-ranging FBI investigation into corruption at Penn National when, according to FBI investigators, she herself came under suspicion for the practice of administering illegal race-day drugs.

The federal investigation of corruption at Penn National led to the conviction of a racing official for taking bribes in exchange for impermissibly supplying information to horsemen, and of a clocker for falsifying workout times in exchange for payoffs.