Inside the Steroid Sting
SI's Luis Fernando Llosa and L. Jon Wertheim, on the scene for the Florida raids, continue to report on the ongoing investigation that promises to rock sports
Posted: Tuesday March 6, 2007 11:08AM; Updated: Monday March 12, 2007 5:52PM
The Palm Beach Rejuvenation Center is decidedly less exotic than its name might suggest. Wedged between a lawyer's office and a brokerage firm on the third floor of a dreary Jupiter, Fla., office building, it is a glorified boiler room, "basically a call center," as one employee explains. Yet investigators contend that the Palm Beach Rejuvenation Center (PBRC) -- and dozens of so-called antiaging or wellness centers like it -- is a vital component in a massive illegal distribution network that enabled customers to place orders over the Internet for performance-enhancing drugs, including steroids and human growth hormone (HGH).
"This is the newest frontier," says Christopher Baynes, a prosecutor in New York's Albany County, whose office initiated the investigation three years ago. "The guy with the black bag at the gym now has his own website."
On Feb. 27, SI accompanied investigators from multiple law-enforcement agencies (box right) on a raid of PBRC. Simultaneously, agents in Orlando were raiding Signature Pharmacy, a compounding pharmacy that last year did more than $40 million in sales, much of it with PBRC. On Monday, PBRC co-owner Glen Stefano and 10 others pleaded not guilty to multiple charges during arraignment proceedings in Albany. Stefano was charged with illegally selling steroids and hormones. Earlier, Signature owners Robert Loomis and his wife, Naomi, were charged with criminal diversion of prescription medications, criminal sale of a controlled substance and insurance fraud.
It will take weeks, months perhaps, for authorities to sift through the client lists, hard drives, invoices and trash from Dumpsters that were seized in the raids -- more than a ton of documents was confiscated. And when they're through, investigators believe they'll unearth the names of hundreds, even thousands of clients who have received a wide array of drugs; and that list is likely to include prominent athletes.
Just consider the fruits of a similar Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raid last year, code-named Operation Netroids. On Aug. 29, agents converged on Applied Pharmacy Services, a compounding pharmacy in Mobile. (A compounding pharmacy makes its own drugs generically.) Seized client records revealed the names of more than 20 athletes in a variety of sports who received drugs from Applied Pharmacy. A 37-page classified intelligence report reviewed by SI alleges that, among athletes:
Outfielder Gary Matthews Jr., whose career year with the Texas Rangers in 2006 earned him a five-year, $50 million free-agent deal with the Los Angeles Angels, was sent Genotropin in 2004. The prescription was written by a doctor at a now-defunct antiaging clinic in Florida. (Through his agent, Matthews declined comment, but the lawyer who represents the outfielder said last Saturday that Matthews has not broken any laws and would cooperate with the investigation.)
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