A Michigan businessman who was indicted in 2009 on gambling and fraud charges has pleaded guilty to fixing races at Tampa Bay Downs and Delaware Park among other crimes, according to the Associated Press.
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Mitchell Karam, 79, admitted he bribed a Panamanian rider, Ricardo Valdes, to fix Tampa Bay races. Valdes, who was named in the 2009 indictment, was believed to have fled the country late in 2006, and it is unclear if authorities have located the rider.
Karam entered the plea in agreeing to provide testimony against his alleged partner in the activities, the Detroit businessman Ghazi Manni. Prosecutors also claimed on Tuesday that Karam and Manni had bet approximately $331,000 on basketball games at the University of Toledo from 2004 to 2006 while paying players to perform poorly.
Manni is scheduled to go on trial on March 12, along with three former Toledo basketball players. Valdes is also scheduled to go on trial that day, provided he has been found.
In absentia, Valdes was charged with 19 counts of conspiracy and fraud in the 2009 indictment. He was one of seven jockeys barred from Tampa Bay late in 2006 based on an investigation conducted by the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau, an arm of a racetrack trade group, the Thoroughbred Racing Associations, that polices the sport internally. He fled shortly after being barred, according to officials.
The indictment stated that Karam and Manni held discussions with Valdes and "other persons known or unknown to the grand jury" about races at Tampa Bay Downs. Prosecutors never identified any other conspirators.