The West Virginia gubernatorial race between acting Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, Republican challenger Bill Maloney and involving greyhound racing has taken a new twist.
A former Kansas greyhound kennel operator arrested Thursday in California on extortion charges has been linked to Maloney and the anti-racing group Grey2K.
According to a clerk at the U.S. District Court of Eastern California in Fresno, Harry Marshall Rae was taken into custody following his arrest in California on a warrant out of West Virginia. Rae allegedly tried to extort $50,000 from Wheeling greyhound owner Dean Miner.
Miner believes he was a visible target for the alleged extortion plot since he's a prominent greyhound owner on the national level and a past president of the Wheeling Island Kennel Owners Association.
In e-mails from Rae to Miner and obtained by The Times Leader, Rae stated a desire to sell video tapes in his possession of illegal greyhound training methods used by a Texas greyhound owner. Miner confirmed their authenticity.
The Texas Racing Commission has since suspended the license of the greyhound owner using the techniques. A national ban usually follows state action.
Miner was shocked when he received the first e-mail message from Rae and immediately forwarded it on to industry leaders and one of his attorneys, Paul J. Harris of Wheeling. Miner said he didn't know the author, Rae, but had heard of him.
After Miner received little feedback from the industry, Harris contacted the U.S. Department of Justice and Art Wood, a West Virginia Racing Commission investigator, informed the West Virginia State Police. The FBI and State Police conducted the investigation, and the 12-day operation culminated with the arrest of Rae Thursday in California.
According to another Rae e-mail to Miner, Rae stated the video tapes would be given to Maloney as well as one of Maloney's most recent endorsers -- Carey Theil, executive director of Massachusetts-based Grey2K.
The e-mail stated that Maloney could imply Tomblin's parents (who are in the greyhound business) could be using similar illegal training methods in West Virginia. Hundreds of state reviews of Tomblin's farm by West Virginia Racing Commission inspectors show no wrongdoing of any kind.
In yet another e-mail from Rae to Miner, Rae stated, "To make this go away for all your buddies up in W.V. I'd like a contribution of $50,000. This can and might be all over the t.v., up their way before the election."
Maloney has attacked Tomblin, alleging preferential treatment of the state's greyhound development fund.
Demanding the $50,000 by a certain date, another e-mail to Miner from Rae stated, "The rush is, as you know the election date. If this doesn't work out between us, they will want 8-9 days t.v. ad time."
Rae went on to claim in an e-mail to Miner that Theil (Grey2K) wanted the tapes to influence the campaign. The e-mail also stated, "I've got several requests for videos from Maloney chief of staff."
A spokesman for the Maloney camp Thursday said they have no knowledge of Rae.
An e-mail from Theil to Rae also was obtained and indicated the Grey2K leader asked Rae for assistance with a project.
"We are working on a special project, and could really use your help. Would you be willing to talk to someone, and educate them about dog racing? The conversation would be completely confidential," the e-mail from Theil to Rae said. "Part of this project involves researching the greyhound racing industry, and no one knows the industry better than you do. This would be tremendously helpful. Let me know if you are willing to help in this way."
A second e-mail from Theil to Rae noted, "His name is Greg and he will call you sometime in the next few days. He is legit. No worries about that. He is working for us, on a special project ;) (e-mail wink sign). We endorsed Maloney for Governor yesterday."
Theil did not return telephone and e-mail messages Thursday.
Grey2K lists itself as a non-profit organization that has received millions of dollars in donations. It is uncertain how those funds are used.
Theil's wife, Christine Dorchak, is the president of Grey2K.
Miner's demeanor slumped when asked about Grey2K.
"Grey2K boasts of their political involvement and their influence with legislators across the country. They've claimed responsibility for ending racing in many states and West Virginia's one of their top targets, having developed relationships with several state legislators, but to me, this crosses the line. I was shocked that Mr. Maloney trumpeted an endorsement from a radical Massachusetts-based political group with ties to groups who have been described by federal authorities as, 'domestic terrorists,'" Miner said. "With the majority of Maloney's ads being greyhound-based and one of his highest profile endorsers working with a man arrested for extortion, as a voter it's disheartening to see the state of politics in our country."
Miner praised the efforts of Harris, Wood, the U.S. Department of Justice and the West Virginia State Police.
"I can't discuss the details of the investigation," Miner said. "I felt like I was part of a movie."
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