Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

"Unbridled Greed"

The Investigation

Five years after the death of Alydar and the fall of Calumet Farm, a pair of tenacious federal prosecutors named Julia Tomala and James Powers, and a rookie FBI agent named Rob Foster were digging into the Byzantine world of Frank Cihak at First City National Bank of Houston, Texas, trying to figure out why he had lent a financially troubled Kentucky horse farm $65 million and then let the farm's president, J.T. Lundy, coast along for two years without making a single payment.

"They made no significant payments on this 50-plus million dollar debt since it was funded in 1988," Powers said. "Then in 1991 they made a huge payment [and] it turned out that it came from the insurance proceeds from the death of Alydar."

Foster and Tomala traveled to Kentucky to investigate the death of Alydar. What they found was disturbing.

They tracked down Alton Stone, the security guard on duty the night Alydar broke his leg. Stone's story was inconsistent with what he'd said earlier.

"Stone was not only making false statements... but was in effect obstructing the underlying investigation," Powers said.

By the time the FBI agent and the federal prosecutor returned to Houston, they were fairly certain that Alydar's death had been a lot more sinister than just the result of a tragic accident.

"Circumstantial evidence pointed strongly toward the fact that the horse was intentionally injured and the person who would benefit from that would be Lundy," Foster said.

Not everyone agreed.

Larry Bramlage, the veterinarian who euthanized Alydar, said he saw no sign of foul play. "There was a question as to whether it was possible someone could have purposely created the fracture in Alydar's limb," Bramlage said, "and I didn't believe then, nor do I believe today that that's the case. I think it was a stall accident."

Tom Dixon, too, said he thinks Alydar's injury was unintentional.

But Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor George Pratt, whom federal investigators asked to study the mechanics involved, said his conclusions support the government's theory that Alydar's injury was no accident.

"My basic conclusion is the bracket found in the aisle was a plant," Pratt said, adding that Alydar's initial leg injury was not the result of kicking his stall door. "We did a calculation on the force that would be required to sheer those bolts off."

Pratt calculated it would take 6,600 pounds of force to knock the stall door off its track. A kicking horse, he said, can generate a maximum of 2,000 pounds of force.

"The horse couldn't do it," he said.

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