New Pennsylvania Attorney General Bruce Castor announced the arrest of Marian Vega this morning for rigging thoroughbred horse races at Parx Casino and Racing, where she works as a groomer. The Bensalem resident has been charged with one count of rigging a publicly-exhibited contest by administering the drug clenbuterol to horses at the Bucks County casino and racetrack. The crime is a misdemeanor.
“People expect that horse racing not be fixed,” said Castor in a statement this morning. “The evidence here shakes people’s confidence that equal horses compete on an ‘even running field’ in these events.”
Clenbuterol is the generic name of a controlled therapeutic medication prescribed to horses with respiratory disease. Vega is accused of administering it outside the permissible guidelines, giving it the effect of a performance-enhancing drug.
According to the criminal complaint, a track employee observed a bottle “clearly marked” “clenbuterol” in Vega’s dorm room when he entered it to speak with Vega on April 10 of this year. When he asked what it was for, Vega allegedly answered, “None of your business.”
The employee reported this to Ramon Preciado, top trainer at Parx, who reported it to the track manager. On April 12, Parx security and investigators searched Vega’s living quarters, where they found the Clenbuterol bottle and dosing syringe.
In interviews that day and on April 25 with investigators, Vega admitted to personally administering the drug to all of Preciado’s horses over a long period of time due to her “hatred” of him. She alleged that Preciado did not pay her for her grooming services on time and in full, and that he regularly humiliated her. However, she did not divulge which horses she drugged, which races they were involved in, how much of the medication she used or where she obtained it.
[Update: Read the official criminal complaint and affadavit here.]
The arrest comes on the heels of a string of horses testing positive for clenbuterol this year. In May, Preciado was suspended for 90 days and fined $2,500. John Servis, trainer for 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Smarty Jones, among many others, was notified in June that one of his horses at Parx tested positive for the drug.
In a Philadelphia Inquirer article from June, Servis and Alan Pincus, attorney for Preciado, both suggested sabotage and a lack of security at Parx were possible factors in these findings.
Vega will be prosecuted by Chief Deputy Attorney General Erik Olsen of the Office of Attorney General’s Organized Crime Section and Gaming Unit. She was released from custody after her bail was set at $20,000 unsecured. A preliminary hearing is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 31.