Horse Race Scam Foiled By a Quirk of Fate

Meanwhile, racing officials were completely unaware of the scams. "It laid under the radar screen," says Bill Nader of the New York Racing Association. "It was a relatively small payoff. It wasn't something that was very noticeable." This, of course, was the beauty of the scam or so DaSilva and Harn thought.

"You do it because the software is vulnerable," says DaSilva, "and you are not gonna be caught. You're simply not gonna be caught."

Losers By a Longshot

But then they made what would be the biggest mistake of their lives. Harn decided to hit last years' Breeders' Cup, the biggest day in horse racing, and, without telling DaSilva, got another fraternity brother, Derrick Davis, in on the scheme. The scam was the same.

And it might have worked if it were not for a little known horse with odds 43-to-1 against making a miracle finish.

"It was simply the undeniable will of the universe that brought in Volponi that day," recalls DaSilva. Volponi "blew every other horse out of the water that day by at least five or six lengths."

As DaSilva recalled, this meant Derrick Davis was holding the only winning tickets in the world for the biggest bet on the biggest day in horse racing. He held claim to the entire pot reserved for the winner of the highest bet — in this case, the Pick Six — and would have been entitled to $3.1 million.

"This could have been the biggest wagering fraud ever," says Nader.

The New York State Wagering Board had never seen anything like it. Tom Casergola, audits director for the board, then heard from the head of the OTB where Davis' tickets had been purchased.

Casergola was told, "Well, if you think that wagering combination is unusual, we had another one a couple of weeks ago, same type of wagering pattern."

The OTB executive was referring to Glen DaSilva's Pick Six win at Belmont. It was not long until it was discovered that the winners of the two suspicious bets — Davis and DaSilva — had each lived together had the same address years ago. It was their Drexel University fraternity house. And one other person lived there as well — a computer programmer for the Autotote named Chris Harn.

"So at that point, we pretty much had a pretty clear understanding of who was involved," says Casergola.

Cut and Run

Still, DaSilva was unmoved by the prosecution that was starting to mount around him and his friends. "What they had was a lot of suspicion," DaSilva says, "and a lot of coincidence, but they had no evidence."

But Harn, facing potentially seven years in prison for his deeds and with it, many years away from his wife and young daughter, cut a deal for a lighter sentence and confessed everything, including the scheme to cash bogus tickets with the serial numbers from the unclaimed winning tickets.

"This was something they could have done I'm sure for years and years because that was well below the radar screen." Nader says, admitting that the men could still have been making thousands a month on the scam. Instead, all three landed in federal prison.

Harn is serving a year and a day. Dasilva got two years, and Davis, three.

When asked about the possibility of being able to have to continue winning, to continue the high life, and never getting caught, DaSilva replies matter-of-factly: "What could have been … "

But for Glen DaSilva, Chris Harn and Derrick Davis, the difference between the high life and hard time was a 43-to-1 longshot no one ever heard of named Volponi.

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