Feds join probe of Pick six

Nov 12, 2002 7:16 AM

   Three persons were expected to be charged Tuesday, Nov. 12, in the Breeders’ Cup pick six investigation. Exactly what the charges were going to be remained a mystery on Monday.

   James Comey, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said his office had joined with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in taking over the probe “at the request of the N.Y. State Police.”

   Focus of the wager, believed to be part a scam initiated to plunder the pick six pools at several racetracks, are three individuals who were linked through their membership in a fraternity while students at Drexel University.

   Derrick Davis of Baltimore, Md., bet on the B.C. pick six through a telephone account at the Catskill (N.Y.) Off-Track Betting operation. Officials of Autotote, providers of the totalizator system at the Castkill OTB, said Davis selected just one horse, the winner, in each of the first four races and coupled them with all the runners in the final two segments of the pick six. The result was a $12 ticket that contained six winning tickets each worth about $440,000.

   It’s alleged that Davis’ selections were made because he was aware that the tote company did not transmit the selections to the computing hub at Arlington Park, venue for the B.C. races, until after the fourth race had been run. This delay allowed Chris Harn of Newark, Del., an Autotote systems engineer, the opportunity to change the original ticket selections on the first four races to include the actual winners, according to allegations.

   The unusual nature of the winning tickets raised a red flag that caused the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) and the Breeders’ Cup officials to request an investigation by the N.Y. Racing and Wagering Board. Initial information caused state officials to consider a criminal investigation.

   Lorne Weil, chairman and CEO of Scientific Games, parent of Autotote, announced early on that without actually charging Harn with manipulating the winning ticket, he had discharged the employee after determining that he had had the means and the necessary password to be a participant in the scam.

   The third fraternity member under investigation, Glen DaSilva of New York, became involved when investigators became suspicious that tickets cashed by DaSilva on exotic wagers placed at two other racetracks also could have resulted from past posting manipulation.

   Through the past weekend, the three suspects claimed innocence through their lawyers. Of course, these protestations were being made before the three had received any money from the pick six ticket whose winnings would exceed $3 million. The Illinois Racing Commission locked up the winner’s pool as soon as the suspicion arose.

   It has been suggested that should the winning ticket prove fraudulent, players who had selected five of the six winners and who had received consolation prizes of $4,600, would receive a subsequent payment of approximately $35,000.

   Meanwhile, racetracks, fearful that the loss of integrity would negatively impact future exotic betting pools, have implemented new security features to guarantee proper implementation of the rules.

   One of the new regulations that tracks owned or operated by Churchill Downs, Inc. (CHDN), including Hollywood Park, currently operating in southern California, would close all mutuel pools one minute before the horses are loaded into the starting gate “for each race.”

   The NTRA said it would require all participating racing hubs to install recording devices to insure that all wagers are properly recorded for future verification. Officials at the Catskill OTB said they did not install such a recording device because of budgetary constraints.

   Also, racing officials said they will insist that the totalizator equipment to be used on pick six and other exotic bets have the necessary capacity to transmit the entire wager prior to the running of the races.