Horse doping: Orange County veterinarian, trainer sentenced in racing scheme

A veterinarian from Pine Bush and a trainer from Middletown have been sentenced to prison for their roles in a federal horse doping scheme, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York announced Wednesday.

The veterinarian, Louis Grasso, 65, was sentenced on Tuesday to 50 months in prison. The trainer, Richard Banca, 47, was sentenced in September to 30 months in prison.

Also sentenced on Tuesday was Rene Allard, a 35-year-old Canadian resident and racehorse trainer who was involved in the scheme with Grasso and Banca. Allard was given a 27-month sentence.

U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel imposed the sentences in Manhattan federal court. Grasso and Banca had previously pleaded guilty to felony drug misbranding and adulteration charges.

"Illegally doping racehorses is animal abuse in the service of greed," Damian Williams, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement. "Such corruption threatens the health of racehorses and undermines the integrity of the sport."

The charges against Grasso and Banca were filed during an investigation of what prosecutors described as widespread schemes by racehorse trainers, veterinarians, distributors of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) and others to manufacture, distribute and receive adulterated and misbranded PEDs and to secretly administer them to racehorses competing at all levels of professional horse racing.

Williams said by evading PED prohibitions and deceiving regulators, participants in the schemes sought to improve race performances and obtain prize money from racetracks throughout the United States, while risking the health and well-being of racehorses.

Prosecutors said Grasso, a veterinarian, not only accepted payments in exchange for prescriptions for powerful and medically unnecessary PEDs, he also created, distributed and administered custom-made PEDs that were all misbranded and adulterated substances that were designed solely to improve racehorse performance.

Grasso had been accused of helping corrupt trainers collect more than $47 million in ill-gotten purse winnings.

Prosecutors also said Banca purchased and administered adulterated and misbranded drugs to racehorses under his control, who earned approximately $16 million.

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In addition to their prison sentences, Grasso was sentenced to two years of post-release supervision, while Banca was sentenced to one year of post-release supervision. Also, Grasso was ordered to pay $47,656,576 in restitution.

In a submission to the court prior to sentencing, Grasso's attorney, Glenn Garber, had requested a sentence of 18 months of home confinement, with local travel permitted for medical care.

Garber noted Grasso's age and the fact that he had contracted COVID-19 during the pandemic, nearly died from the disease, and still suffers from long COVID.

"A jail sentence will be particularly difficult for him to endure," Garber wrote.

David Cohen, Banca's attorney, sought a combination of home confinement and probation for his client in a letter submitted to the court before sentencing.

Cohen noted the crime Banca pleaded guilty to was a non-violent offense, and pointed to Banca's lack of a prior criminal history, his "excellent record" during pre-trial release and his acceptance of responsibility.

"He is not a threat to re-offend," Cohen wrote.

Lawyers for Grasso, Banca and Allard could not immediately be reached for comment.

Mike Randall covers breaking news for the Times Herald-Record, the Poughkeepsie Journal and The Journal News. Reach him at or on Twitter @mikerandall845.

This article originally appeared on Times Herald-Record: Pine Bush vet, Middletown trainer sentenced in horse doping case