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Post date: April 24 2002

Race Track Tellers Plead Guilty To Money Laundering

Attorney General Spitzer today announced that three former employees of the New York Racing Association (NYRA) pleaded guilty before Saratoga County Court Judge Jerry Scarano to multiple counts as part of an investigation of money laundering at New York’s thoroughbred racing tracks.

The three defendants – who worked as tellers at NYRA tracks – claimed they could launder huge sums of cash offered by undercover State Police agents posing as drug dealers.

Pete Oster, 65, of Queens and Joseph Rabito, 60, of West Hempstead pleaded guilty today to four counts of Attempted Money Laundering in the First Degree, a class "E" felony; four counts of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, also a class "E" felony, and one count Conspiracy in the Fifth Degree, a class "A" misdemeanor.

A third defendant, Robert Lodati, 60, of Queens pleaded guilty to six counts of Attempted Money Laundering, six counts of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, and one count of Conspiracy in the Fifth Degree.

"This investigation was launched because it was suspected that criminal activity was seeping into the grandstands of New York’s racing industry," said Spitzer. "These guilty pleas demonstrate law enforcement’s commitment to restoring New York racing’s reputation."

The investigation was initiated in March 2000 at the request of the New York State Racing and Wagering Board. Shortly thereafter, State Police surveillance observed tellers receiving cash payments without immediately providing betting slips in return. Led by the Attorney General’s Office, State Police began an investigation using undercover officers.

A grand jury alleged that the tellers took a cut of five to ten percent of the money provided to them by undercover agents who identified themselves as cocaine dealers. The tellers converted the small bills into large bills – a typical form of money laundering designed to facilitate the smuggling of cash out of the country by reducing its bulk.

These transactions were conducted during racing meets at NYRA tracks. Based on recorded undercover conversations, authorities believe that significant laundering of real drug money may have been going on for several years. Federal and state authorities are also involved in a related probe of additional criminal activity at the tracks.

Judge Scarano scheduled Lodati’s sentencing for July 1; Rabito and Oster will be sentenced on July 2. The prosecution was coordinated by Assistant Deputy Attorney General Meryl Lutsky, under the immediate supervision of Deputy Attorney General in Charge of OCTF, George Quinlan, and Deputy Criminal Division Chief J. Christopher Prather.

The Attorney General also acknowledged the assistance and cooperation of the New York State Inspector General’s Office, the State Police, the State Racing and Wagering Board, and Saratoga County District Attorney James Murphy.