Horse Racing

Zulueta spent 33 months in prison


Marcos Zulueta, a former trainer living in the Mid-Atlantic with an unusually high win rate, who was arrested for wiretapping drug purchases and bragging about thoroughbred performance-enhancing regimens to convicted horse herders. Jorge Navarro, was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison on Thursday.

Zulueta, 53, pleaded guilty in October to one felony count of fraud and false drug labeling with intent to defraud or deceive.

As part of the plea agreement, he previously agreed to lose $47,525.

At the February 24 sentencing, the remaining two charges against him were dropped, which was also part of the settlement.

At the time of pleading guilty in United States District Court (Southern District of New York), it was announced that Zulueta faced a five-year prison sentence. But because the statutory maximum term for his charge is three years, prosecutors and defense have agreed that based on federal sentencing guidelines, his actual range is 30. up to 36 months.

However, after that deal, when a current investigative report normally revealed (unknown to prosecutors) that Zulueta was convicted in 2018 of drunk driving while under arrest. for another offence, it triggered his doping criminal history calculation. , so his minimum sentence based on the guidelines was increased to 33 months instead of 30.

The Feds have advocated for a verdict in that regard; The defense argued for a variance that allowed a sentence below the guideline. Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil set the minimum sentence allowed.

‘I was creative’

A separate federal presentation includes excerpts of secretly recorded phone conversations between Zulueta and Navarro.

During some of those completely frank discussions, Zulueta admitted to fearing that he purposefully admitted to performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) to the point where he feared he would kill his own horse. by injecting the drug incorrectly or performing a nasogastric tube. into the lungs instead of the stomach.

“I don’t want to tell you because you will [expletive] scold me,” Zulueta admitted to Navarro in a blocked phone call on May 5, 2019. “I was creative, I gave them more drugs but I drowned them – I was instead. engulfed them…. I didn’t tell you about it because I knew you would back me up…. I lost [expletive] so many, so much [of] money. But, come on, forget it – that’s it. “

According to the government, Navarro warned Zulueta at least once to reduce his doping.

“Marcos, we need to clean things up because they will [expletive] it’s our turn. They will kick us out of the business if we keep up with the madness,” Navarro said in a March 10, 2019 call.

Zulueta agreed with Navarro, and Navarro continued, “You’ve made your money…. Stop inventing [new ways to drug horses]. ”

In other cases, however, it was Zulueta who warned Navarro about keeping a lower profile.

“Yes, you should be happy – happy – glad you didn’t win it all,” Zulueta said, according to a wiretapped recording. “Otherwise, you will be arrested.”

Zulueta’s words eventually became prophecy: On March 9, 2020, both coaches, along with several dozen others, were placed under federal custody in a series of arrests involving a international doping conspiracy of racehorses. Here is a list of the Purebred-related confessions and convictions that have resulted so far:

In March 2021, Scott Robinson, a veterinarian who committed a crime, received 18 months in prison and lost $3.8 million in profits.

In June, Sarah Izhaki was convicted of selling misbranded versions of Epogen.

In September, Scott Mangini, a pharmacist who pleaded guilty to one count related to creating custom drugs for racehorses, was sentenced to 18 months in prison and $8.1 million in forfeiture. la.

In December, Navarro wept in court after receiving a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Navarro pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to administer unapproved, mislabeled and adulterated drugs, including PEDs. Navarro was also ordered to pay $25.8 million in restitution (an amount he will likely never pay) and could face deportation to Panama.

On January 5, 2022, Kristian Rhein, a veterinarian formerly working at Belmont Park, was sentenced to a maximum of three years in prison after pleading guilty to one drug count. Rhein lost $1.02 million and paid $729,716 in compensation to the victim.

On January 6, Rhein’s brother-in-law, Michael Kegley Jr., a former sales executive for a Kentucky-based company that marketed and sold PEDs believed to be SGF-1000, was sentenced to 30 months in prison. jail and 3.3 dollars. confiscation of millions.

Florida-based veterinarian Seth Fishman faces 20 years in prison after being found guilty on February 2 of two counts of conspiracy to violate adultery laws and false labeling.

‘Success story’ is wrong

While not a “titled” coach like classified winning moderators like Navarro or Jason Servis (who insists he is not guilty and has an uncertain trial date), Zulueta won a large number of races in smaller circuits. In early 2020, just before his arrest, Zulueta’s horses won by a fussy 31%, mostly at Parx.

“Up to the time he engaged in the activity outlined in the Indictment, Marcos Zulueta has been an American success story,” his legal team wrote in a sentencing report.

“Born in Cuba in 1968, he experienced a very difficult and impoverished childhood,” the defense report continued. “His father left the family when Marcos was only one. As the oldest of his siblings, Marcos had to work to support his family. He engaged in all forms of manual labor and eventually became adept at working with horses, with the proceeds going straight back to his family.

“With the goal of escaping the restrictions and deprivation of freedom in Cuba, Marcos immigrated to the United States in 1994. [and in 2011] became a successful horse trainer. Aside from the DUI and two summary counts committed in a short period of time, Marcos has led a crime-free life…”

The feds framed Zulueta’s story differently in their own presentation:

“Although Zulueta did not make as much money from the winnings as the other defendants in this case, including his accomplice Jorge Navarro, he still engaged in exactly the same behavior as Navarro: (1 ) shop a variety of PEDs to trick him. racehorses, including blood builder; (2) redistribute some PEDs to other faculty, such as Navarro; (3) testing new PEDs by administering them to the horses in his care; (4) ‘cleansing’ the livers of horses he has doped to counteract the harmful effects of his doping; and (5) use hazard management methods, such as ‘wet’.

The prosecutor’s report continued: “Zulueta was so content with the dangers of his conduct that he was reluctant to tell even Navarro – his accomplice, a trusted friend, and a prolific doper – that he overdosed on his horses. Zulueta’s private conversations underscore the callousness he displays to the horses in his care…”

The attorneys further argued that “As with the other defendants in this matter, it is not the case that the defendant’s crime was the result of a misjudgment, nor the case where he voluntarily ceased to act. commit his crime. Zulueta continued to order and receive PEDs until shortly before his arrest, and there is no sign that he will ever stop. “

Zulueta reported to the jail May 24. The judge recommended that he be held at Fairton, a medium-security facility in New Jersey.

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