Horsemen's group sues former president

July 28, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The local division of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association has sued its former president, claiming Richard C. Watson made purchases of items such as an all-terrain vehicle and tickets to a Las Vegas show with HBPA funds and made $13,353 in American Express cash withdrawals, without explanation, on a card issued to him.

The suit, which also names his wife, Janene, as a defendant, also claims Watson loaned himself thousands of dollars in HBPA funds without authorization from the organization, loaned $50,000 in HBPA funds to his son's farm without authorization and caused more than $6,000 worth of unauthorized HBPA checks to be written to his wife for things such as a bonus, vacation and retirement.

Watson was president of the HBPA from sometime before 1999 to January 2004, the suit states. His wife was executive director of the HBPA.


The Watsons, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday night, live at Ramblewood Farms in Charles Town, the suit says. Directory assistance found no listing for the Watsons in Charles Town.

The Charles Town division of the HBPA, which represents the interests of horsemen at Charles Town Races & Slots, is asking for reimbursement in the suit, which was filed in Jefferson County Circuit Court last Friday.

The suit alleges that Watson:

  • Used HBPA funds to buy a $6,300 John Deere all-terrain vehicle in October 2001. The ATV, which the suit alleges Watson still possesses, was never used for HBPA purposes.

  • Used HBPA funds to make an unauthorized purchase of a $1,090 Nikon camera in 2001.

  • Made American Express cash withdrawals totaling $13,353 on a card issued to Watson and paid for by the HBPA. No documentation or explanation was entered in the books and records of the HBPA.

  • Approved the issuance of a $500 HBPA check to his wife for an unauthorized bonus in December 2003.

  • Authorized an unapproved $1,225 HBPA check to be issued to his wife for vacation pay in December 2003.

  • Approved an unauthorized $4,160 HBPA check to be issued to his wife for retirement in December 2003.

  • Approved a $248 HBPA check to be written to his wife in December 2003 with no justification.

  • Purchased a $3,460 Winchester rifle with HBPA funds without authorization.

  • Made an unapproved $50,000 non-interest-bearing loan of HBPA Lasix funds to "Coffie Farms," which the HBPA believes is owned by Watson's son. The loan was made before Dec. 31, 2000.

  • Made four non-interest-bearing loans of HBPA funds to himself totaling $25,000. None of the loans was approved by the HBPA, the suit alleges.

  • Made $990 worth of charges at gas stations without showing their purpose.

  • Charged tickets for a show at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas. The tickets cost $210 and were paid for by the HBPA.

  • Paid for $1,693 in expenses for Melissa Dailey, whom the HBPA believes is an employee of Watson. No approval was given by the HBPA.

  • Entered into a three-year contract with the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and obligated the HBPA to payments over the term of the contract totaling $181,196. Money for the payments came from the HBPA's purse account, in violation of state law.

  • Was reimbursed $57,261 in travel expenses in 2002 and 2003 for travel that was not approved by the HBPA.

  • Paid his wife $4,800 in excess of her salary in 2001, 2002 and 2003.

The suit says Watson was forbidden from taking any action that would divert the assets of the HBPA from its corporate purpose.

"The acts of defendant Richard C. Watson in appropriating the assets of the HBPA to himself, his family and his business associates constitutes fraud," said the suit, filed by Wheeling, W.Va., attorney John Preston Bailey.

The suit claims Watson's wife acted as a "co-conspirator" in the transactions.

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