By Peter A. Sutters Jr.
The indictment unsealed in Manhattan federal court last Thursday alleges the group, which is said to have Mafia ties, set up betting accounts with offshore companies and used an almost undetectable method of doping horses to increase the odds of winning, according to the documents. The New York Racing Association said it will develop a new method of testing horses to determine if they have been given the previously undetectable doping formula. The test will be administered at NYRA-administered tracks at Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga.”Any violation to this new testing policy will be met with stiff punishment,” said NYRA President and Chief Executive Officer Charles Hayward in a statement.According to the indictment, Gerald Uvari, his brother Cesare Uvari, and Gerald's son, Anthony Uvari, all three of whom are alleged to have connections with the Gambino crime family, acted as go-betweens for bettors and gambling companies along with two other key members of the group, Marvin “The Cookie” Meyerowitz and David “Pebbles” Applebaum. The two-year long investigation culminated with the arrest last Thursday and ended the operation that brokered more than $200 million in bets on horse races and sporting events. The indictment said the gambling operations took place principally in New York, New Jersey, Florida, Nevada, and New Hampshire and properties tied to the operation were seized in the same states. The indictment alleges the operation was set up in such a way that even if the bettors lost, the leaders of the ring, described in the documents as the “Uvari Group,” still collected commission or rebates on bets placed by people with offshore companies located in the Britain, Curacao and an Indian reservation in Oklahoma. Accounts were set up for individual bettors with the Social Security numbers of the Uvari Group, enabling them to report gambling losses that were not theirs on their taxes and resulting in Anthony Uvari receiving a $156,794 tax refund for the 2003 tax year, the indictment says.The NYRA announced Tuesday it was canceling simulcast agreements with the four betting sites in Britain, Curacao and Oklahoma Indian reservation that were named in the indictment.”NYRA is undertaking aggressive and expedited review of a number of selected secondary pari-mutuel organizations,” Hayward said. The FBI has already seized “significant assets” from those involved, including $400,000 in cash from the home of Meyerowitz, according to the documents. The trainer, George Martin, along with Applebaum and a harness driver, Rene Poulin, are alleged to have given a horse a concoction of performance enhancing drugs just prior to a race at Aqueduct on Dec. 18, 2003, the indictment says. Applebaum then placed bets on the horse and encouraged others to do so, collecting winnings on his own bets and commission from other bettors when the horse won the race, according to the indictment. Newsday reported horses at Belmont Racetrack were also doped in a similar method, but this information could not be independently confirmed.U.S. Attorney David Kelly said the investigation was ongoing and more arrests could come, according to the documents. Reach reporter Peter A. Sutters Jr. by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext. 173.