Former GM of track pleads guilty to multiple charges

New Jersey Attorney General Paula T. Dow and Criminal Justice Director Stephen J. Taylor announced that Donald R. Codey Jr., the former president and general manager of Freehold Raceway, pleaded guilty on Aug. 20 to stealing $3,045 in raceway promotional vouchers and assisting two patrons to cash more than $1.3 million in bad checks at the harness racing track in Freehold.

According to Taylor, Codey, 65, of Orange, pleaded guilty before state Superior Court Judge Thomas F. Scully in Monmouth County to third-degree theft by unlawful taking for the theft of vouchers.

Codey admitted that he stole 16 Mystery Vouchers worth a total of $3,045. Mystery Vouchers were sent by Freehold Raceway to track patrons and patrons of the Favorites offtrack wagering site in Toms River. Each voucher was issued to be redeemable for a “mystery” amount, ranging from $2 to $5,000, if taken to the Favorites site on President’s Day, Feb. 16, 2009, and used to gamble. Codey used the vouchers to gamble at Favorites that day, according to a press release from Dow’s office.

Codey also pleaded guilty to two counts of fourth-degree issuing bad checks, one for each of the two patrons he assisted in cashing bad checks. The charges were contained in accusations filed by the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau as a result of an investigation by the New Jersey State Police. The state will recommend that Codey be sentenced to up to 364 days in jail as a condition of a term of probation. Scully scheduled sentencing for Oct. 22.

“Mr. Codey had an alliance with these two dishonest patrons and assisted them in cashing bad checks, which cost Freehold Raceway $1.3 million,” Dow said. “For that criminal conduct and the voucher theft, he faces up to a year in potential jail time and is responsible with his co-defendants for paying back about $900,000 which has not been repaid.”

“Mr. Codey stole promotional vouchers with a cash value of over $3,000,” said Taylor. “With that theft and his complicity in cashing over $1 million in bad checks, he completely betrayed the trust placed in him as president and general manager of the raceway.”

According to the press release, the two patrons Codey assisted, Darryl Thomas, 50, of Newark, and Joseph A. Siragusa, 43, of Marlboro, pleaded guilty before Scully on Aug. 10 to accusations charging each of them with third-degree issuing bad checks.

Thomas admitted that between May 2007 and January 2009, he cashed 218 bad checks at Freehold Raceway. Siragusa admitted that between July and December 2008, he cashed 131 bad checks at the raceway.

The state will recommend that each of those men also be sentenced to up to 364 days in jail as a condition of a term of probation.

Thomas’ checks totaled $664,560, and Siragusa’s checks totaled $654,000. All of those checks were returned for insufficient funds. Codey had authorized cash advances and check cashing privileges for the two patrons. In pleading guilty, Codey admitted that he authorized the two men to cash the checks at the raceway, even though he knew they were issuing checks against bank accounts that were closed or had insufficient funds, according to the press release.

Thomas must pay $349,080 in restitution to FR Park Racing L.P., the owner of Freehold Raceway, and Siragusa must pay $553,660, representing the total bad checks each man cashed, less amounts previously paid or credited against the debts. Under his plea agreement, Codey is made jointly and severally liable with Thomas and Siragusa for paying those restitution amounts.

As a result of the investigation, a third man, Darren A. DeLucia, 43, of Hallendale Beach, Fla., also pleaded guilty on Aug. 10 to third-degree issuing bad checks for cashing $38,000 in bad checks at Freehold Raceway in July and August 2008. The state will recommend that he also be sentenced to up to 364 days in jail as a condition of probation. He must pay full restitution.

Thomas and DeLucia are scheduled for sentencing on Oct. 1. Siragusa’s sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 22.

Regarding the theft of vouchers, the investigation revealed that Codey was present when a track employee printed 1,000 Mystery Vouchers. Codey took possession of the stacks of vouchers in his office before they were mailed to patrons of the Toms River offtrack wagering site.

Deputy Attorney General Perry Primavera is prosecuting the case and took the guilty pleas for the Division of Criminal Justice. The charges are the result of an investigation by the New Jersey State Police conducted by Detective Sgt. Geoffrey P. Forker and members of the State Police Official Corruption North Unit. Primavera and analyst Kathleen Ratliff are assigned to the case for the Division of Criminal Justice.

According to the press release, in early 2009, Pennwood Racing Inc., the parent company of FR Park Racing, conducted an internal investigation that led to the resignation of Codey as president and general manager of Freehold Raceway in February 2009. The theft of vouchers was initially uncovered as a result of that internal investigation.

The bad checks were also discovered by the company at that time. They were initially investigated by a private security firm hired by the company. The company referred the matters involving the theft of vouchers and bad checks to the New Jersey Racing Commission, which referred them to the Division of Criminal Justice.

The Division of Criminal Justice has established a toll-free corruption tipline for the public to confidentially report corruption, financial crime and other illegal activities: 1- 866-TIPS-4CJ. The public also can confidentially report suspected wrongdoing online at