By Ray Paulick

Former jockey Ricardo A. Valdes, one of seven riders banned from Tampa Bay Downs in December 2006, was indicted Wednesday along with two Michigan businessmen on 19 federal counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to influence sporting contests by bribery, and unlawful use of a facility in interstate commerce—all in connection with a series of alleged race fixing incidents at Tampa Bay Downs in Florida, Delaware Park in Delaware and Great Lakes Downs in Michigan, from December 2005-December 2006.

The other two men indicted, Ghazi Manni, 52, and Mitchell Edward Karam, 76, were named in a separate federal indictment involving a point-shaving scheme that also resulted in charges against six former University of Toledo basketball and football players.

Click here to read the race-fixing indictment.

Click here to read the point-shaving indictment.

The indictment, handed down by assistant U.S. Attorney David Morris in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan's Southern Division, said Manni, Karam, Valdes and “others known and unknown to the grand jury, “devised and effectuated a scheme to defraud and for obtaining money by 'fixing' Thoroughbred horse racing contests.” The trio is charged with using insider information provided by jockeys to help make wagering selections and then “bribing jockeys participating in these contests to give less than their best effort to win and to handle their horses other than for the purpose of winning.”

The indictment states the 43-year-old Valdes “and other persons known and unknown” accepted money and other things of value to “use less than their best efforts to win a race.” Valdes is also charged with “attempting to recruit other Thoroughbred horse jockeys to join the conspiracy.”

If convicted, the three men face up to 25 years in prison and fines of as much as $500,000.

The indictment cites a series of phone calls and voice messages involving the three men, a pari-mutuel clerk at the Northville Downs harness track in Northville, Mich., and an employee of Huntington Bank in Hamtramck, Mich. Federal authorities apparently had wiretaps on the calls.

Listed are four specific races at Tampa Bay Downs in which Valdes rode in January and April 2006.

— In the 10th race on Jan. 10, 2006, Valdes finished sixth with Urilla, the 3-1 second choice in the wagering,  Urilla trailed the field for the opening half mile before passing horses late, according to the Equibase chart.

— In the third race on Jan. 29, 2006, Valdes finished second on Cocoa Beach Rocket, the 4-1 third choice who led briefly in the stretch “but hung late,” according to the chart.

— In the eighth race on Jan. 31, 2006, Valdes finished sixth on Sharenski, the 5-1 third choice who trailed the field for the opening half mile.

— In the third race on April 15, 2006, Valdes ran last aboard Chalk Chalk, a 12-1 longshot who showed early speed on a turf route but bore out on the first turn and faded quickly.

The other jockeys banned by Tampa Bay Downs in December 2006 were Terry Houghton, Joseph Judice, Derek Bell, Jorge Bracho, Luis Castillo and Jose Delgado. Of that group, only Houghton and Bell rode in any of the races cited in the indictment. Bell finished seventh in the Jan. 29 race on Greatest Creation, who showed early speed at 8-1 odds. Houghton finished third Jan. 31 on Camilles Castle, a 6-1 shot who “chased the leaders but failed to respond in the drive,” according to the chart.

Bell told the Thoroughbred Times in January 2007 he was questioned by the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau about the Jan. 29, 2006, race in question but denied any wrongdoing.

None of the other jockeys banned by Tampa Bay was named in the indictment. The Tampa Bay ban on all seven jockeys still stands.

Peter Berube, the Tampa Bay Downs vice president and general manager, declined to comment on the indictment, which provided no specific details about alleged race fixing at Delaware Park or Great Lakes Downs.

Copyright © 2009, The Paulick Report


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