An organization representing Louisiana racing horse owners and trainers used money earmarked for medical, pension and workmen’s compensation benefits for expensive lobbying efforts and lavish trips to international beach resorts, according to an audit released today. The review of the Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association says the association may have violated Louisiana law and jeopardized its nonprofit status, causing it to be subject to further regulation and taxes. The report was compiled by Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera’s office. In its response to the audit, the horsemen’s association says it is reviewing expense payments to determine whether they were appropriate. It also is drafting new written policies regulating travel, meals and entertainment costs. More than $28,000 of international travel expenses paid by the medical trust fund will be repaid to the fund, the association says.
The report adds to allegations levied in a November federal indictment against the association’s former board president and former executive director. The indictment charged Sean Alfortish and Mona Romero with wire fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud in an alleged scheme to rig the 2008 horsemen’s association elections and improperly use the association health care fund. The Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association is in charge of bookkeeping at Louisiana’s four racetracks, paying out the purses and keeping 6% of the money for itself for health care, retirement and worker’s compensation benefits. For a Business Report story about the investigation into the horsemen’s association, click here.