Thirteen indicted; allegations include feeding dogs male
Saturday, August 25, 2007
By GARY McELROY Staff Reporter.
Thirteen dog track habitués arrested nearly a year ago and charged with illegal racing schemes -- including feeding selected animals with so-called male enhancement products, were indicted Friday by Mobile County's August grand jury.
The alleged infractions occurred at Mobile Greyhound Park over several months in 2005 and 2006, according to a news release from the Mobile County District Attorney's Office on Friday.
Part of the scheme, prosecutors said, involved persons with access to the paddock area of the park who administered to certain animals a herbal substance, via a pill, commonly sold at health food stores as a male enhancement product.
The substances were fed to the faster greyhounds entered in a particular race with the anticipation that their heart rates would soar and that by the time the race started, they would already be exhausted, prosecutors suggested.
Because the faster, drugged dogs were favored to win the races, the co-conspirators would pile up bets on the slower, undrugged dogs, prosecutors allege, and reap the rewards.
Suspicious betting patterns and extremely poor performance by the drugged greyhounds alerted racing authorities, according to the news release.
Racetrack authorities cooperated with the district attorney's office and provided space at the park in June 2006 to help investigators focus and centralize the probe.
Racing Commission Chairman Eddie Menton, in a statement issued along with the news release, said: "We take very seriously any scheme by which anybody would try to gain an advantage in wagering. The track has been in business for 30 years, and it is important that our patrons continue to have confidence in the integrity of the races."
Those indicted on charges of transmitting racing information for illegal gambling purposes included Joseph Edgar Hempfleng, Kenneth Christopher, Michael Varner, Tony Hendrix, Christopher Copeland, Christopher Taylor, Dusty Webb, Michael Arthur Roach, Whitney Leigh Bishop, Matthew Wade, Don Westley Wilson, Thaddeus Burden Lett and Vertis Sealy.
Wilson, Lett and Sealy were additionally indicted on charges of tampering with race animals.
Most of the defendants are in their 20s. Sealy, the oldest, is 71.
The offenses each carry a punishment of up to 10 years in prison.