Tom Jicha

Tom Jicha grew up in New York City and worked with John Pricci at the short-lived revival of the New York Daily Mirror. Tom moved to Miami in 1972 for a position in the sports department at the now defunct Miami News.

Tom became the TV critic in 1980 and moved to the South Florida Sun Sentinel in 1988. All the while he has kept his hand in sports, including horse racing. He has covered two Super Bowls, a World Series and the Breeders’ Cup at Gulfstream Park.

He's been the Sun Sentinel’s horse racing writer since 2007 as a staff member, and continues to this day as a free-lancer.

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Tuesday, June 09, 2015


Part 3 HRI Special Report on the Dutrow Case: Patti Cerda Speaks Out


What you are about to read is an unsolicited, personal, unabridged statement of an ex-NYRA employee in response to several readers who believe that some of the individuals who defended Rick Dutrow Jr. in the comments section of Part 1, Part 2 of HRI’s Special Report--an investigation into the Dutrow case in which the trainer was suspended for 10 years--did so because they were friends of Dutrow. In Part 3, Patti Cerda, for 20 years the Manager of the NYRA Identification Office responsible for issuing credentials to all individuals having business at any of the three NYRA tracks, states that she was made to issue false identification badges to undocumented backstretch workers or risk losing her job. That process is counter to federal and state laws, in short, an illegal act. The following is her account, edited for syntax and punctuation only


To HRI Contributor Indulto and all HRI readers: Please make no mistake. My support and comments regarding Rick Dutrow Jr. have nothing to do with me knowing him personally. In fact, it could not be further from the truth and this story is all about the truth.

I have nothing to gain from telling the truth about what I know to be fact. My participation here, in getting justice for Rick, is not about fame, fortune or a pat on the back. It was something I felt compelled to do, me and me alone.

My relationship with Rick Dutrow was strictly business, mostly exchanging hellos in the halls at Aqueduct. If I had to call him regarding any of his employees, I spoke to his secretary, never to him personally.

Actually, my first conversation with him was after John Pricci contacted me. He told me he was doing an investigative story on the Dutrow case and asked if I would be willing to sit down with both of them to answer a few questions.

I had never spoken and never met John Pricci either until that meeting. My support for Rick Dutrow started long before I ever spoke to Dutrow or Pricci. The day I read the article something didn't sit right with me.

Why? Because I knew Joel Leveson from my work experience at NYRA. He even tried to set me up once but it failed.

I also know the inner workings of both the New York Racing Association and the New York State Racing and Wagering Board.

I followed the story from the beginning, I wrote letters on his behalf that he didn't even know about, and I talked to friends at NYRA who confirmed my suspicions.

I was told that it was Leveson who planted those needles. He walked in the barn that day and went straight for that desk drawer. I tracked this story to its conclusion.

Rick may not be a saint, then neither are those he shared the backstretch with at any race track. He was set up.

I worked in Security Operations at the NYRA. I know a thing or two about how things work.

I am also married to a Narcotics Detective who worked undercover for a long time. He knows how the drug investigations process is performed and how it gets carried out to its conclusion.

I read John Pricci’s article and from the testimony he pointed out every flaw, inconsistency and lie. My husband understands the law and people's civil rights. He told me that Leveson’s search of [assistant trainer] Juan Rodriguez’ vehicle was illegal without a warrant. Nor did Leveson get Rodriguez’ consent in writing.

If he made the unlawful decision to search Juan's vehicle, basically that says those needles were Juan's, not Rick's. He would have had no other reason for wanting to search Rodriguez’ vehicle.

I held my position as Manager of NYRA'S Identification Office for 20 years. I was an honest, dedicated and loyal employee.

I was forced to leave my post because I was being made to accept fraudulent immigration documents and Social Security cards from undocumented workers who held positions at all three NYRA tracks. Both the NYSRWB and NYRA were responsible for this.

I had to sign a Code of Ethics document given to me by the legal department every January, laying out my responsibilities as an employee. I was told to follow Federal, State, NYRA & SRWB laws, rules and regulations.

Quoting from the actual document in compliance with laws, rules and regulations:

"Directors, Officers & employees of the NEW NYRA must respect and follow all relevant laws, rules, and regulations including, but not limited to, the laws of Federal Govt., the laws of the State of New York.

“All relevant rules and regulations of State Regulators including but not limited to the New York Racing and Wagering Board and NEW NYRA'S internal policies.

“It is your responsibility to be aware of the laws and regulations affecting your job. If a law conflicts with a policy in this Code of Ethics, NEW NYRA'S Directors, Officers and Employees must comply with the law.”

“CODE OF ETHICS TITLE: ACCURACY OF BOOKS & RECORDS

“Everyone is expected to keep & maintain accurate business records in accordance with all relevant laws, rules, and regulations including but not limited to the laws of the Federal Government, laws of the State of New York, all relevant rules of State Regulators including, but not limited to, the State Racing and Wagering Board and the NEW NYRA’S policies…

“We must never misrepresent facts, falsify or suppress records. Tampering with business records is illegal and will not be tolerated."

The SRWB and NYRA broke both federal and state law by accepting and forcing me to accept fraudulent immigration documents and social security cards and for allowing undocumented workers to work at all three tracks.

I brought my concerns to my immediate supervisor, the legal department, Human Resources, and NYRA’s General Counsel was made aware of my concerns. It fell upon deaf ears. Why? Because no one wanted me to open up Pandora’s Box.

After being under Federal Prosecution protection and the careful eye of the Getnick & Getnick law firm, I became increasingly concerned because if either the NYRA or the NYSRWBD were to come under questioning, I would have been the one to take the fall.

Afterward, I made every attempt I could to get a written policy regarding undocumented workers and further documentation. On Feb. 12, 2010, we had a meeting with all parties, except the SRWB.

I was told that it is against the law to do what I was doing but that it's a grey area. I said “no it's not, you just said it’s against the law, there is no grey area, it's black & white.”

Both NYRA and the SRWB are supposed to be guided by the I-9 rules set forth by the federal government. Trainers do not do I-9s, so the responsibility fell on us. But after that meeting I was left hanging.

That afternoon, feeling defeated and living with the fear that at any time I could be held accountable for these wrongdoings, I packed up my things. That was the last time I ever saw the inside of a NYRA track.

The moral of the story: NYRA and the SRWB were breaking their own rules and policies along with State & Federal law. So what would stop them from doing something like was done to Rick Dutrow?

They wanted him gone and they got away with it, just like they got away with accepting fraudulent documents. Power and politics can be a lethal combination.

Combined, it can create a hell for anyone they decide to set their focus on.

Written by John Pricci

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