Former Newcastle and Middlesbrough footballers and County Durham stable worker accused in race-fixing probe (From Darlington and Stockton Times)
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Former Newcastle and Middlesbrough footballers and County Durham stable worker accused in race-fixing probe
TWO North-East footballers and a former County Durham stable worker have been accused of race-fixing.
Former Newcastle and Sunderland striker Michael Chopra – who last year revealed he had gambled away up to £2m – and former Darlington and Newcastle midfielder James Coppinger are alleged to have conspired with jockey Andrew Heffernan to fix races.
They have been charged by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) alongside former Middlesbrough player and England under-21 international Mark Wilson.
It is alleged the footballers were involved in a race-fixing ring that conspired to “commit a corrupt or fraudulent practice”.
The group is accused of laying bets on horses to lose on internet betting exchanges after receiving information from Heffernan. Newcastleborn Chopra, 28, who now plays for Ipswich Town, his agent Yogesh Joshee, Wilson, 33, and two other men are also charged with offering bribes to the jockey.
Coppinger, 31, who was born in Middlesbrough, and Wilson were former team mates at Doncaster Rovers.
Coppinger is presently on loan at Nottingham Forrest.
Three others are facing charges, including Kelly Inglis who, according to her Facebook page, has worked at several stables in theDarlington and Barnard Castle areas.
It is understood Miss Inglis, who now works in Newmarket, is a friend of Chopra. She is charged with accepting or offering to accept bribes from five of the men.
All charges relate to 12 races in 2010 and 2011 – in three of which Heffernan is alleged to have stopped his horse. The horses were Wanchai Whisperer, Gallantry and Silver Guest.
Heffernan, 24, who rode as an apprentice for Middelhambased Mark Johnston, moved to Australia to race earlier this year.
In November 2011, Chopra revealed he had gambled away up to £2m and had checked into the Sporting Chance Clinic to address his addiction.
He said then: “Your first bet’s your worst bet. As the years have come along and I’ve earned more money, I’ve started to gamble more.
“I was gambling up to £20,000 a day at times. As soon as I’d step over the white line I would focus on football – but as soon as I got to the dressing room, I would check my phone to see if I’d won.
“In my first season at Cardiff I had a gambling debt from when I was at Newcastle.
I had to leave Cardiff and sign for another team to pay that debt off. I have probably lost between £1.5m and £2m on gambling.”
Paul Scotney, the BHA’s integrity, compliance and licensing director, said: “The charges BHA has issued are the result of a long and complicated investigation. This process has taken significant time and resources.
“However, investigations such as these are very similar to fraud investigations and as such are complex and timeconsuming.”
Mr Scotney said investigators had been forced to make applications to the High Court to recover telephone records after individuals refused to co-operate.
If found guilty the footballers face a minimum threeyear ban from involvement with racing, including attending racecourses.
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