One spring evening in 2013, Carlos Acevedo was fretting about his mounting stack of legal bills. He called Anthony Bosch, the phony doctor who had taught him the black-market steroid business.
“Who do you think I should contact, if you know what I mean?” Acevedo asked. Bosch knew exactly what he meant. According to wiretap transcripts, Acevedo wanted one of their clients from big league baseball to cover his bills.
There were many possible targets, including Ryan Braun, one of the most feared sluggers in Major League Baseball. He was a steroid client — and had denied it repeatedly. He might cough up some cash, they surmised.
But the easier mark was another steroid customer, Alex Rodriguez, the New York Yankees superstar with the largest contract in baseball, $270 million spread over 10 years.
“The one with the deepest pocket obviously is Cacique,” said Bosch, using his code name for the Yankees slugger. Besides, Bosch said, Rodriguez had picked up his legal bills.
Transcripts from previously undisclosed wiretaps as well as other investigative documents offer a rare glimpse into South Florida’s steroid subculture just as the Biogenesis scandal was exploding. They show that when the going got tough, members of the steroid network started scrambling for cover and pumping Rodriguez for money before ultimately betraying him.
In exchange for keeping his secrets, they expected to be compensated. Although there were other wealthy customers like “Bleeping Braun,” as Acevedo referred to him, A-Rod had the fattest wallet and the most to lose. He was desperate to protect his name, his reputation and his massive contract.
Bosch and Acevedo, partners in the Coral Gables anti-aging clinic, were not the only ones who viewed Rodriguez this way. Others included Rodriguez’s cousin, Yuri Sucart, a steroid go-fer dubbed “shrek” by the New York media, who’d had a falling out with him over money after two decades of catering to his every need.
It was the spring of 2013. The Biogenesis clinic had been shut down and was under criminal investigation. An ongoing federal drug probe had gained momentum after Miami New Times reported in January that Bosch and his ring were distributing testosterone, human growth hormones and other banned substances to MLB players.
But there was no proof — no failed drug tests — just a story in a newspaper based on medical records that federal authorities and MLB did not possess. Both were hellbent on getting their hands on those records. To the people who had the documents or knew Rodriguez’s secrets first-hand, this was an opportunity, court and investigative records show.
Rodriguez, hoping to scoop up evidence and secure silence, lavished money on Bosch, the former Biogenesis owner. And Gary Jones, a man with a criminal record who managed to get a stash of the clinic’s records from Porter Fischer, the disgruntled Biogenesis employee who stole them. And Sucart, the ballplayer’s longtime assistant.
With his stockpile, Jones made a double killing, selling Biogenesis documents to Rodriguez for $200,000 and to MLB investigators for $150,000.
“If people were coming to Rodriguez, it was because he was for sale,” said a source familiar with the ongoing federal criminal investigation, which focuses on Biogenesis’ supply network. “He let it be known through his intermediaries that he was willing to pay for their silence. In other instances, he actively paid off witnesses in order to keep them quiet. ”
Since federal prosecutors filed steroid-distribution charges in August, Bosch, Acevedo, supplier Jorge Velazquez and deliveryman Christopher Engroba have pleaded guilty. Sucart, despite undercover recordings capturing his alleged role in steroid purchases, plans to go to trial in February. Neither Jones nor Fischer has been charged in the steroid conspiracy case.
In the end, some of the people who promised not to talk to authorities spilled their stories anyway. Bosch and Acevedo became witnesses for the government.
Rodriguez even tattled on himself. This past week, the Miami Herald exclusively reported that the 39-year-old admitted to federal drug agents back in January that he had used banned performance-enhancing drugs. He had purchased them from Bosch’s clinic between late 2010 and October 2012 — at a cost of $12,000 a month. Rodriguez’s testimony is summarized in a 15-page report reviewed by the Miami Herald.
Rodriguez’s statement, provided under oath after a grant of immunity, contradicted months of defiant public denials about steroid use during his time with the Yankees.
Last year, the Yankees slugger was among 14 ballplayers suspended by the MLB commissioner for their links to the Biogenesis clinic.
Rodriguez, a onetime Miami-Dade high school standout and University of Miami benefactor whose name is on UM’s Coral Gables baseball stadium, received the longest suspension: 211 games. In January, an arbitrator reduced the penalty to 162 games. The infielder was reinstated to the Yankees after the 2014 World Series.
Seldom has so much hush money been spent so ineffectively.
As the Biogenesis scandal unfolded in early 2013, Bosch still had about 20 customers who needed their muscle-building substances. But he no longer operated a clinic and had run out of supplies, according to his statement to authorities. What to do? Lean on Rodriguez.
A-Rod, who was no longer using steroids at that point, agreed to pick up the tab to replenish the pipeline — in effect subsidizing Bosch’s other customers — “to keep him happy” so he “would not open his mouth” about his involvement with the ballplayer to major league officials, the steroid dealer would tell DEA agents in April of this year.
The slugger purchased thousands of dollars worth of drugs from one of Bosch’s suppliers, Velazquez, so Bosch could fill orders for his remaining customers, Bosch said in his DEA statement. Since the Biogenesis clinic near the University of Miami campus was no longer open, Bosch’s Coconut Grove home became a drug dispensary.
Velazquez allegedly obtained the testosterone and other performance-enhancing drugs steroids from a chemist, Paulo Berejuk, who is accused of concocting them in his Kendall garage. He was recently added to the Biogenesis indictment and pleaded not guilty.
Bosch said he met with Velazquez and a Rodriguez confidant, Jose “Pepe” Gomez, to discuss additional payments. As they all sat in Gomez’s Jeep parked in Coral Gables, Velazquez said that Gomez “had devised a strategy” for Bosch to receive $20,000 to $25,000 a month from Rodriguez to help him out until the Biogenesis scandal “blew over,” according to Bosch’s DEA statement.
Bosch told federal agents “he agreed to lay low and take the money.” He would eventually cooperate with MLB and DEA officials.
Bosch pinched Rodriguez multiple times. Just days after the New Times published its exposé on the Biogenesis-MLB connection in late January 2013, his defense attorney, Susy Ribero-Ayala, initially requested a $500,000 retainer, Bosch told the DEA. Bosch’s plan was for it to be paid by Rodriguez.
Rodriguez’s friend, famed criminal defense lawyer Roy Black, negotiated that figure down to $25,000 and advised the ballplayer to pay up, which he did in February 2013, Rodriguez said in his statement to the drug agency.
An offer to disappear
In the midst of that meeting with the DEA in Weston this past January, Rodriguez’s defense attorney, Joseph Tacopina, asked his client to leave the conference room so that he could share some information with investigators and prosecutors.
The attorney then described another effort to wring $500,000 out of his client. Tacopina said Bosch had the steroid supplier, Velazquez, approach Gomez, Rodriguez’s buddy, with the following proposal:
Give me $500,000 and I’ll “disappear.”
Gomez, who is not charged with a crime, rejected it.
During the DEA meeting, Tacopina also told investigators that Gomez started to act on his own to “help” Rodriguez. He said Velazquez told Gomez that he knew who had stolen the Biogenesis records: Porter Fischer.
Fischer, the clinic’s former vice president of marketing, was upset with Bosch for not repaying him $4,000 that he had loaned to the business.
Fischer was, in fact, the whistle-blower who instigated New Times’ Biogenesis story when he gave copies of clinic records — specifically, Bosch’s notebooks detailing which patients used performance-enhancing drugs from his clinic — to the newspaper in the fall of 2012.
Rodriguez’s attorney said Gomez, on his own initiative, gave Velazquez $4,000 to relay to Fischer. In exchange, Fischer handed over the stolen notebooks, according to the DEA report.
Last week, Fischer contradicted Tacopina’s statement to the DEA, telling the Miami Herald he recovered his $4,000 but that he got it from Peter Carbone, the owner of a Boca Raton tanning salon that Fischer frequented. The money, in any event, came from Rodriguez’s intermediaries.
It was at the Boca Tanning Club that Fischer came to know Gary Jones, an employee who repaired tanning beds. For reasons that are not clear, Jones also had acquired some purloined Biogenesis records. Rodriguez’s investigative team wanted those documents, too, so it paid him $200,000, Tacopina told DEA agents.
In exchange for the money, Rodriguez’s representatives were also going to receive a purported video recording of Jones’ meeting with an MLB investigator, Dan Mullin. At that meeting, in a Pompano Beach diner called Cosmos, Mullin bought a stash of Biogenesis records from Jones for $125,000.
Jones sold another batch of documents to Mullin, a former New York City detective, for $25,000.
While Rodriguez wanted the records to keep them out of others’ hands, MLB officials wanted them to prove that Rodriguez and others were cheaters.
In an affidavit, Jones said that the last batch, the one sold for $25,000, had been “stolen” from Fischer’s car while it was parked outside the tanning salon — and that he told Mullin the records were stolen.
Rodriguez’s investigative team tried to use Jones’ affidavit to discredit MLB’s “witch hunt,” calling it proof baseball wanted to destroy his career by any means necessary. MLB officials disputed Jones’ claim, saying he never told Mullin the records were stolen.
Nobody tapped Rodriguez’s bank account more than his cousin, Sucart, who had been at the ballplayer’s beck and call since Rodriguez entered the big leagues as an 18-year-old Miami-Dade phenom in 1993.
Controversy has followed the pair since 2009, when the ballplayer first got into trouble for steroid use. At that time, Sports Illustrated reported that Rodriguez had tested positive while playing for the Texas Rangers in 2001-2003 — a scoop that resulted from a leak of his test result.
After the story broke, Rodriguez admitted it was true, but said he had sworn off steroids ever since. At a news conference, he said he obtained the drugs through his assistant, Sucart. That got Sucart banned from associating with anyone in Major League Baseball.
Nonetheless, Sucart remained Rodriguez’s personal assistant. In the summer of 2010, Sucart would introduce Rodriguez to a “doctor” who had helped him get into better shape. That was Bosch, the Biogenesis owner, who was not actually a physician.
The meeting led to Rodriguez becoming a regular customer, paying Bosch $12,000 a month for testosterone cream, “gummy” lozenges laced with testosterone and syringes pre-filled with human growth hormones, Rodriguez acknowledged in his statement to the DEA. Rodriguez said he maintained Bosch’s drug “protocol” until the end of the 2012 baseball season.
Meanwhile, Rodriguez and Sucart had a bitter split after the ballplayer said his accountant discovered that Sucart had “frivolously spent” between $250,000 and $500,000 without the ballplayer’s approval, according to Rodriguez’s DEA statement. Rodriguez cut him off.
Sucart, who lived in a southwest Miami-Dade home purchased for him by Rodriguez, hired a lawyer. They put pressure on Rodriguez to fulfill a promise to take care of Sucart for life. Rodriguez, before the Biogenesis scandal broke, offered Sucart two proposed settlements. Each was worth about $600,000, although the figure included the value of his home.
Sucart rejected Rodriguez’s settlement offer. In December 2012, Sucart’s lawyer, Jeffrey Sonn, wrote the ballplayer a letter with a proposed settlement of $5 million.
“Yuri, even after he was accused of being a steroid mule for you [in 2009], kept your confidences of all your activities while you played for the Rangers and the Yankees,” Sonn wrote. “Yuri is at a complete loss to understand why you have abandoned him.”
Rodriguez told the DEA that he considered the letter “extortion.” During the past week, Sucart’s lawyer was quoted as saying the dispute was simply a “breach of contract.” On Friday, Sonn declined to comment for this story.
In June 2013, the two relatives signed a confidential out-of-court settlement: Rodriguez agreed to pay Sucart $900,000 and let him keep his Miami-Dade home and a Chevy Suburban — along with $300,000 in “medical insurance.”
In exchange for Rodriguez’s money, Sucart agreed not to discuss his cousin’s personal, confidential affairs.
Sucart’s wife, Carmen, is talking, but not about Rodriguez’s steroid use.
Last week, she described Rodriguez as the “devil,” telling the New York Daily News that during the dispute over money, the ballplayer strutted into the Sucarts’ home as if to mark his territory.
“He was arrogant,” she said. “You know what he did? He peed outside on my wall, next to the pool.”