Judges are the beautiful butterflies that some lawyers turn into after
their ugly caterpillar days. Others become U.S. attorneys.
Either way, glibness is what makes
their wings glisten, and one of the glibbest turned up in White Plains, NY, last
week when the Drexel Boys surrendered to the FBI.
The script involves three 29-year-old
computer whizzes, former fraternity brothers at Drexel university in
Philadelphia, who won $3 million on an $1,152 investment in a national pool
called the Breeders’ Cup Ultra Pick Six. Except they didn’t get the money.
You undoubtedly read the story, or saw it on television, unless you’ve been on
a polar expedition.
The U.S. attorney handling the case
after the three turned themselves into the FBI — two of them showing up
positive for cocaine at their surrender — is James B Comey. He is the bar’s
best bon mot man in years.
When a reporter asked Comey if the
story unfolding before him was material for a Hollywood movie, he fired back,
“It’s been made already, except with much better-looking guys.” He was
referring, of course, to The Sting of 1973, in which Paul Newman and
Robert Redford starred.
The present case, at last reading,
showed seven and one-half pounds of paper from print coverage alone, a 7.5 on
the Richter scale of reporting.
What is involved is a scheme that
would have escaped detection if a horse named Volponi had not won the sixth race
of a bet called the Ultra Pick Six at Arlington Park in suburban Chicago a few
The Pick Six, as the name implies, is
a bet in which the horseplayer has to select six winners in six races. Those
picking all six share the pool, which in this case amounted to more than $3
million, and there was only one man in America who had all six.
His name is Derrick Davis, and he
works with computers for a living. Or did. His vocation may turn into a vacation
of up to five years, if the feds prove their case against him. The government
— and virtually everyone else in horse racing — believes he had two
accomplices in the grand scheme, one of them an insider named Glen Harn, who was
a senior computer programmer for Autotote, the company that handled the
far-flung bets on this national Pick Six. The other fraternity brother involved
is Glen DaSilva, a denizen of Manhattan, also a Drexel fraternity brother.
Few in racing knew it, but the
mechanics of the Pick Six were that all of the money bet around the country at
simulcasting outlets was transferred immediately to Arlington Park, but the
names of the first four winning horses were not transmitted until after the
fifth leg of the Pick Six. Mr. Harn, Autotote’s “rogue computer
programmer,” had access to the codes and entrée to the inner workings of the
central computer, and the government says he simply changed the first four
numbers of a bet that Derrick Davis placed at an OTB outlet in the Catskills in
New York to conform to the actual winners. The bet was highly unusual by
wagering standards, since its configuration was four “single” numbers and
then All-All, meaning that no matter who won the last two races, Davis was a
winner if he had the first four winners right. If Harn entered them at the
computer source after the races were over the Drexel boys were home free. And
they almost were, except that Volponi won at 43-to-1 in the final race of the
Pick Six. Davis had him, of course, because of his All bet on that race combined
with the re-engineered first four numbers that made him the only man in America
with all six right.
The third fraternity brother, DaSilva,
apparently had rehearsed the scheme in previous weeks with a Pick Four at
Balmoral Park near Chicago and a Pick Six at Belmont Park in New York, winning
both, the New York bet paying $130,000. Then the three conspirators, it is
charged, went for the national Pick Six with Harn adjusting the numbers.
This is nice work if you can get it. U.S. Attorney Comey, not missing a punch line, had the final word. “They bet law enforcement would not catch them, but that’s a bet they couldn’t fix.”