SI Vault
Mail-Order Muscles
Rick Telander
November 22, 1993
How big is the market for illegal bodybuilding drugs? Huge, says the author, who went on the trail of a steroid-selling scam
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November 22, 1993

Mail-order Muscles

How big is the market for illegal bodybuilding drugs? Huge, says the author, who went on the trail of a steroid-selling scam

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I made arrangements with one of SI's lawyers: I would call him if and when my package arrived; together we would photograph it, open it and document its contents. Then I called an account officer at my local bank and asked her to let me know as soon as my check was cashed. There was nothing else to do except wait. This was in late October 1992.

On Nov. 20 the account officer called to tell me that the check had come through; it had been stamped "All-Star Fitness," and though I had sent the check to a post office box in Toronto, it had been deposited in a Bank of Montreal branch in Montreal. That, I assumed, was a means of skirting the law. Now all I could do was wait for the goods.

I waited and waited. The notion that this was all a scam fixed itself in my mind. That had always seemed the most likely explanation; but then, I wondered, how could anyone expect to get away with it? The trail leading to the culprit or culprits would be thick with canceled checks, ads, deposit slips, bank records, signature cards, the post office box. Police would nail the crooks in a heartbeat. That is, if anyone complained to the police. Complaining to authorities might mean confessing to an attempt to purchase steroids.

I waited some more. No package. In mid-December I visited my bank again, and the officer used numbers on the canceled check to track down the precise location of the bank branch office. She called the bank and talked to an employee there, inquiring about the status of the All-Star Fitness account. The account is active, the bank employee reported. A man comes in regularly to make deposits and withdrawals.

I considered going to Montreal, befriending the bank authorities, sitting in the lobby and waiting for the teller to signal when the bagman arrived. The account officer thought that sounded adventurous. So did I.I pondered the practicality of it. Say I spot the guy. Then what? Do I grab him and demand my steroids? What does he do to me?

Instead I phoned my old pal Anthony Pellicano, private eye, Los Angeles. Actually, calling Pellicano a private eye is like calling Roseanne Arnold a housewife; he is the gumshoe to the stars, having worked for Sylvester Stallone, Ed McMahon, Kevin Costner, James Woods and, yes, even Roseanne herself. These days Pellicano is trying to extricate Michael Jackson from some. uh, unpleasantness. When I called him in early 1993, he sounded like the same old Pellicano I had known when I wrote a newspaper story about him in '74, when he was a flamboyant, up-and-coming Chicago sleuth.

Now I asked him if he could help me track down the steroid salesmen. Sure, he said. Just fax me your notes. I offered to pay him something for his efforts. Say, $250? There was wild, staccato laughter. "Don't make me laugh," he said.

Time passed. Pellicano was busy with other jobs. Finally, in March, he called. There are three guys in this steroid ring, he told me. They send out mailers to people who buy certain muscle magazines. It's a rip-off of the first degree. The Canadian cops have been on to it for a while and are ready to move. He faxed me the other names the outfit has used on its fliers: Mr. Big, Power Growth, Anabolic Plus, Gym Teck Training, Athletes in Motion. Pellicano said that I should call Marie Drummond in the morality bureau of the Metropolitan Toronto Police for the rest of the info.

I called Detective Drummond, and she told me that three people had been charged with a variety of offenses in the scam, including conspiracy to defraud the public and mail fraud. Two of the men had been arrested; they were brothers, Peter and Paul Fuller, 36 and 32, respectively: the third. Michael Murphy. 28, was on the lam. All of the men were Canadian citizens. They never sent any steroids to anyone, said Drummond. Nothing? I asked. Not even a couple of Dianabol tablets?

"This scam could have been for anything," she replied, "but they saw the market demand for steroids. One of them was a bodybuilder. They've been doing this since 1987."

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