By: Frank Angst
In the first federal case to go to a jury verdict following numerous arrests of trainers and veterinarians in connection to 2013 events at Penn National Race Course, a jury found trainer Murray Rojas guilty of 14 counts related to misbranding of animal drugs but determined that Rojas was not guilty of seven charges of wire fraud.
In the case before Judge Sylvia Rambo in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania argued that Rojas committed wire fraud seven times when she started horses who had illegally been administered race-day medications. The jury found Rojas not guilty on each of those seven charges.
But the trainer faced seven charges of causing a prescription animal drug to be misbranded, and Rojas also faced fraud charges related to each of those incidents of misbranding. The jury found Rojas guilty of all 14 of those charges.
According to court records, the jury reached its decision on all 21 counts June 30.
In August 2015, a grand jury in Harrisburg indicted Rojas on the charges related to 11 races in which she entered horses from Jan. 19-Feb. 16, 2013 at Penn National.
The indictment alleged Rojas directed and conspired with unnamed and unindicted co-conspirator veterinarian(s) to administer substances to horses on the day they were entered to race, in violation of Pennsylvania law, racing rules, and regulations prohibiting the administering of those substances.
The indictment further alleges that steps were taken to conceal this conduct by the backdating of invoices for the sale and administration of drugs to the horses on race day, as well as submitting fraudulent veterinarian treatment reports to the Pennsylvania Racing Commission. These allegations led to the guilty findings on the 14 misbranding charges.
In terms of the wire fraud charges, the U.S. Attorney had argued that when purse money was transferred across state lines from California to Pennsylvania that wire fraud had occurred. But the jury determined Rojas was not guilty of all of those charges.
The indictment of Rojas followed the March 2015 indictments of four Penn National-based racetrack vets: Kevin Brophy, Fernando Motta, Christopher Korte, and Renee Nodine on charges related to illegal race-day administration of medications. Those vets entered guilty pleas and agreed to cooperate with investigators.
The criminal charges against the vets followed the November 2013 federal indictments of three trainers at Penn National: David Wells, Sam Webb, and Patricia Anne Rogers, as well as clocker Danny Robertson. Wells pleaded guilty in state court to race-rigging, admitting to numerous race-day medication violations, and as part of his sentence was incarcerated for three months; Rogers’ case also was moved to state court where she received 12 months probation and 40 hours of community service. Webb’s case was thrown out of federal court; Robertson entered a guilty plea in federal court.