— The odds of winning big at the race track can be hundreds, or thousands, to one against. Only a few ever get that far. And some don't even collect when they do win.
Few know that, from the dropped and lost race tickets left uncashed each year, there are millions of dollars that remain unclaimed.
For a short time last year, those few included two young men who knew where to find the money and how to get it. Their misadventures would eventually lead them to what is thought to be the largest betting scandal in American sporting history.
In an exclusive interview for Primetime Monday, Glen DaSilva, a key player in the scandal, sat down and discussed his involvement in the scheme which rocked the betting world. It is the first time that any of the principal players involved in the scandal has agreed to a television interview.
An Ominous Meeting of the Minds
The story began about 10 years ago at Drexel University in Philadelphia, where Glen DaSilva met his roommate Chris Harn, a shy yet talented computer whiz kid in his freshman year.
The friendship was serendipitous. Harn helped DaSilva with computers and the charismatic DaSilva helped Harn socialize. DaSilva eventually convinced Harn to join the same fraternity as he did.
DaSilva stayed friends with Harn after college and moved to Manhattan. But the slow job market began to wear on him. "It's the 'why me' syndrome. 'Why do I continue to be the one who's laid off?,' " recalls DaSilva, 30.
But DaSilva liked the high life and began using drugs. He was even arrested for cocaine possession. At this low point for DaSilva, financially and emotionally, Harn approached DaSilva with an idea for how to make a few quick bucks.
Now working as a programmer with a company named Autotote, a company which handles most of the nation's horse racing bets, Harn discovered those tickets which remain uncashed were listed in his company's computer.
"He printed on the Autotote computers tickets with serial numbers that he knew were uncashed," says Daniel Conti, Harn's attorney. DaSilva took these tickets and brought them to New York area race tracks, slipped in the "winning" tickets into the betting machines, which would print cash vouchers in return.
"It's not as if we were doing stick-ups," DaSilva told ABCNEWS. "This was unclaimed money."
All told, this pulled in around $6,000 a month for Harn and DaSilva.
The Greed Grows
DaSilva used his share to jet off to places like Los Angeles, Miami and Las Vegas. "I like nice things and I had begun to live beyond my means," he said. They wanted more money.
Harn thought of a more lucrative way to scam the tracks. They would hit the "Pick Six," a bet which requires picking the winners of six consecutive races. They would test the scheme at Belmont Park, New York's biggest racetrack.
Here's how they did it: Harn would phone in a "pick six" bet using DaSilva's off-track betting account. The winners he chose did not matter.
Following the fourth race, Harn would use his computer access as a programmer at Autotote and, within the span of 20 minutes, exploit a loophole which allowed him to change the bets before the results were recorded.
For the last two races, he did what was known as "betting the wheel," which was to select every horse to win. "So you can't lose," DaSilva adds.
The first pick six bet netted more than $100,000. "They sent me my money and they congratulated me on my style of betting," says DaSilva.