Zulueta Changes Plea to Guilty

Zulueta | EQUI-PHOTO


Trainer Marcos Zulueta joined the growing list of those involved in the Jason Servis-Jorge Navarro doping scandal to change their plea to guilty. Zulueta did so Friday when appearing via teleconference before federal judge Mary Kay Vyskocil. In doing so, Zulueta became the ninth of 27 people indicted in March of 2020 to plead guilty.

Having pleaded guilty to adulterating and misbranding drugs with the intent to defraud or mislead, he faces up to five years in prison and will be sentenced in February.

In the original indictment, Zulueta was closely linked to Jorge Navarro and was alleged to be involved in the doping program that involved the star sprinter X Y Jet (Kantharos). However, Navarro's name was noticeably absent from most of Friday's proceedings. Instead, Zulueta spoke of his relationship with alleged drug distributor Ross Cohen when asked by Vyskocil to explain what he had done to justify his guilty plea. Cohen was among those indicted last year but his name was not included when a superseding indictment was announced last November.

“I misbranded medicine from Ross Cohen,” said Zulueta, who struggled with his English throughout the hearing. “I gave it to my horses for them to perform in training. I don't remember the specific days I gave it to the horses but I did it.”

Zulueta said he started using medications he got from Cohen in 2019, but said he stopped a few months later because he found that the drugs were having no impact on his horses. He made no mention of his dealings with Navarro.

“I realized that my horses weren't getting any better,” he said. “I didn't see any results. The last two or three months before I got arrested, I wasn't using it.”

When asked by Vyskocil whether, at the time, he knew what he was doing was illegal, Zulueta replied: “Yes, your honor. I am prepared to pay for the mistakes I have made.”

Representing the government, attorney Sarah Mortazavi told the court that investigators had compiled mounds of evidence to make their case against Zulueta and singled out evidence that Zulueta was using a drug called “monkey,” which has similar characteristics to epogen.

According to the original indictment, Zulueta was among those who where obtaining, shipping and administering misbranded and adulterated PED's for Navarro's benefit. The evidence included an intercepted phone call from February 2019 in which Navarro and Zulueta discussed Navarro's need for a customized PED referred to as a “blocker.” Zulueta assured Navarro he could get the drug for him.

On another occasion, Zulueta cautions Navarro about winning too often.

“Yeah, you should be happy-happy-happy that you are not winning all of them,” Zulueta allegedly told Navarro. “Otherwise, you will be arrested.”

Zulueta started training in 2011 and quickly became a force at Parx. In the few months in 2020 before his arrest, he had 18 winners from 58 starters, good for a winning rate of 31%.

Three individuals who have pled guilty have been sentenced. Scott Robinson and Scott Mangini each got 18 months and Sarah Izhaki got time served.

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