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Charges Dismissed Vs. Former Nyra Clerks

The Associated Press
September 18, 2007

BALLSTON SPA, N.Y. – A judge dismissed charges yesterday against two former New York Racing Association officials accused of falsely reporting the weights of several jockeys at NYRA’s three thoroughbred tracks in 2004.

Saratoga County Court Judge Jerry Scarano ruled the case against Mario Sclafani and Braulio Baeza was based on faulty evidence, including a scale at Saratoga Race Course that was incorrectly calibrated and videos of the scales that were unclear, defense attorney Todd Greenberg said.

Sclafani, 50, of Yorktown Heights, was NYRA clerk of scales, and Baeza, 67, of Elmont, was assistant clerk of scales. They were indicted in September 2005 on 291 criminal counts, including scheme to defraud, conspiracy, falsifying business records, tampering with a sports contest and grand larceny. Baeza is a two-time Eclipse Award winner as the nation’s top jockey, a member of the Racing Hall of Fame and winner of the 1963 Kentucky Derby.

“From the outset, we’d believed for the last 2 1/2 years there was not one iota of criminal evidence against our clients,” said Greenberg, who represents Sclafani. He said they were “the victims of political prosecution” and were served up by NYRA, which was facing federal charges of tax evasion and fraud.

After an investigation by then – Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, the two were suspended by NYRA in early 2005 and later fired.

A spokesman for NYRA said it would not comment on a legal matter. Calls to Attorney General Andrew Cuomo were not returned.

Attorney Paul DerOhannesian, who represents Baeza, doubted that charges will be brought in Queens. He said the supposed evidence showed jockeys 11 pounds overweight for a race and making weight 30 minutes later. Defense information showed the same men making weight the day before and a day later at other tracks.

The clerks were accused of allowing Jose Santos, Robby Albarado, Herbert Castillo Jr., Ariel Smith and Cornelio Velasquez to ride 67 times at Belmont, Saratoga and Aqueduct from June 23, 2004 to Dec. 15, 2004 although they were allegedly 7 to 15 pounds over their announced weights. Prosecutors had said the false weights cheated bettors out of accurate data to make wagers.