By Bill Finley
One year to the day that the bombshell indictments against 27 individuals allegedly involved in a scheme to use performance-enhancing drugs on racehorses were announced, Scott Robinson became the first of those involved in the scandal to be sentenced to prison. In a decision handed down Tuesday by Judge J. Paul Oetken in U. S. District Court in Lower Manhattan, Robinson was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison plus an additional three years of supervised release. Robinson is required to surrender himself to authorities on Sept. 7, 2021.
Robinson, a drug manufacturer and distributor, had pled guilty to one count of drug adulteration and misbranding. The maximum sentence for that offense is five years.
According to the sentencing memo filed by the U.S. Department of Justice by the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, the drugs Robinson distributed “included anabolic steroids and performance-enhancing drugs ('PEDs') marketed to racehorse trainers, veterinarians, and others. These drugs were not manufactured in sanitary, government-approved facilities; they had not been tested and approved for use in humans or animals by the Food and Drug Administration ('FDA'); they were not distributed pursuant to lawful prescriptions; nor were they properly labeled.”
The judgment against Robinson also included a forfeiture of $3,832,318.90, which he must pay to the government. The total represents the value of the drugs he illegally sold.
The government also charged that Robinson was dishonorably discharged from the Navy for selling steroids.
“I want to apologize to the horse racing industry,” Robinson said when given a chance to address the court. “Horse racing is the only thing in my life that I have ever truly loved. From the first time I went to the racetrack, I fell in deep love with horse racing and this negative attention is not what I am about, and I sincerely apologize for that. For the last 15 years plus, I have promoted horse racing and tried to increase its popularity. I take full responsibility for the actions I have taken.”
Sarah Mortazavi, the attorney representing the government, argued for a harsh sentence.
“Unfortunately, his conduct up to this point illustrates that he is not contrite or remorseful and that he viewed his conduct as, really, no big deal and believed that no consequences would follow,” she said. “We ask the court to send a different message, both to Mr. Robinson and members of the community, that this type of conduct can lead to ill effects, that this type of conduct will not be tolerated and that it is taken seriously by the government and the court.”
Before announcing his sentence, Oetken said he took into consideration the fact that Robinson had no prior record and the many letters he received in support of the defendant, but in the end concluded that a prison sentence was warranted. Robinson's attorney, William Butler, asked the court to issue a non-custodial sentence that would not include any prison time
“The criminal conduct here was serious, the defendant engaged in a scheme to market and sell misbranded and adulterated drugs across the country, including performance-enhancing drugs to racehorse trainers and others,” Oetken said.
He continued: “I do conclude that this is a sufficiently serious crime extended over a lengthy period of time such that serious punishment is warranted…I don't think a five-year sentence is needed to serve the purposes that I have mentioned. I also think that a 36-month sentence is greater than necessary to serve those purposes. Weighing everything I have mentioned, I believe that a sentence of 18 months imprisonment is an appropriate sentence and is sufficient to meet the characteristics while taking into account the positive factors that I have mentioned.”
Robinson pled guilty on Sept. 16, 2020, making him among the first to end their fight against the government. That he did so at the time raised speculation that Robinson was cooperating with the government, which would result in a lenient sentence. During Tuesday's proceedings, it remained unclear whether or not Robinson had in fact made a deal to cooperate.
The original indictment included 27 individuals, most notably trainers Jason Servis and Jorge Navarro. Robinson was indicted along with his former business partner, Scott Mangini. The government charged that Robinson and Mangini engaged in a scheme to “create, manufacture, sell and ship adulterated and misbranded PEDs intended to be secretly administered to racehorses for the purpose of improving those horse's race performance…”
The only other person involved in the case to enter a plea is Sarah Izhaki, who has also been charged with illegally distributing adulterated and misbranded drugs.” She is set to be sentenced May 19.
Tuesday's hearing was conducted via Skype and Robinson was in Florida. His attorney asked that he be sent to a prison near his home in the Tampa area. There are four minimum-security federal prisons in the state.