Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that defendants Louis Grasso and Richard Banca pleaded guilty to their respective roles in the distribution of adulterated and misbranded drugs with the intent to defraud and mislead, in connection with the charges filed in United States v. Grasso et al., 20 Cr. 163 (OKC). Both Grasso and Banca pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel. Grasso and Banca will each be sentenced by Judge Castel on Sept. 6, 2022.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “Grasso and Banca represent the corruption and greed of those in the racehorse industry looking to win at any cost. In peddling illegal drugs and selling prescriptions to corrupt trainers, Louis Grasso abdicated his responsibilities as a medical professional to ensure the safety and health of the racehorses he ‘treated.’ By injecting horses with unnecessary and, at times, unknown drugs, Grasso risked the lives and welfare of the animals under his care, all in service of helping corrupt racehorse trainers like Banca line their pockets through fraud. These latest convictions demonstrate the commitment of this office and of our partners at the FBI to hold accountable individuals seeking to profit from animal abuse and deceit.”
According to the allegations contained in the Superseding Indictment, the Superseding Information charging Grasso and Banca, prior charging instruments and other filings in this case, and statements during court proceedings:
The charges in the Grasso case arise from an investigation of widespread schemes by racehorse trainers, veterinarians, PED distributors, and others to manufacture, distribute, and receive adulterated and misbranded PEDs and to secretly administer those PEDs to racehorses competing at all levels of professional horseracing. By evading PED prohibitions and deceiving regulators and horse racing officials, participants in these schemes sought to improve race performance and obtain prize money from racetracks throughout the United States, all to the detriment and risk of the health and well-being of the racehorses. Grasso, a veterinarian, not only accepted payment in exchange for prescriptions for powerful and medically unnecessary performance-enhancing drugs, he also created, distributed, and administered custom-made performance-enhancing drugs that were all misbranded and adulterated substances designed solely to improve racehorse performance. Through this fraudulent scheme, Grasso helped corrupt trainers collect over $47 million in ill-gotten purse winnings. As a standardbred racehorse trainer, Banca purchased and administered adulterated and misbranded drugs to his racehorses, and as a result of his crimes, his horses earned over $16 million in purse winnings. Banca stood to profit from the success of racehorses under his control by earning a share of his horses’ winnings, and by improving his horses’ racing records, thereby yielding higher trainer fees and increasing the number of racehorses under his control.
U.S. Attorney Williams praised the outstanding investigative work of the FBI New York Office’s Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force and its support of the Bureau’s Integrity in Sports and Gaming Initiative. Mr. Williams also thanked the Food and Drug Administration for their assistance.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Money Laundering and Transnational Criminal Enterprises Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Sarah Mortazavi and Anden Chow are in charge of the prosecution.