Only in South Florida would the fall of one of history’s most prolific home run hitters begin at a testosterone clinic and end at a tanning salon.
The mystery behind the missing steroid files used to torpedo the career of New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez began to unravel Wednesday, when police arrested a 20-year-old habitual thief on charges that he snatched the files in March from a car parked at a Boca Raton tanning salon.
But the full story of how those files ultimately ended up in the hands of a convicted bank robber — and then Major League Baseball — may never be known.
Boca Raton police closed the case this week with the arrest of Reginald St. Fleur, an employee of Boca Tanning, a South Florida-based chain that offers nearly ’round-the-clock spray tans at $50 a pop.
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St. Fleur’s DNA matched blood that was collected from the underside of the car’s door handle, police said.
“We had blood on a car. It came back to Mr. St. Fleur, and he’s not talking,’’ said Boca Raton police spokeswoman Sandra Boonenberg. “If he sold them, it did not occur in our jurisdiction. We are only concerned with an auto burglary.’’
The ill-gotten files arguably became the most sought-after and prized bounty ever stolen from a tanning salon.
The documents — mostly patient records — were taken from the trunk of a car that belonged to Porter Fischer, former marketing director of Biogenesis, the now-closed Coral Gables anti-aging clinic. Its owner, Anthony Bosch, allegedly supplied performance-enhancing concoctions to Rodriguez and other professional ballplayers, as well as high-school athletes, police officers and other local clients in search of rock-hard bodies and athletic and sexual prowess.
Major League Baseball investigators descended on South Florida in January after the Miami New Times published a story about Bosch and his connections to at least 20 players and other professional athletes whose names were allegedly listed in the clinic’s records as purchasers of banned substances.
The newspaper received the files from Fischer, who was upset that Bosch stiffed him when he asked for a refund on his $4,000 investment in the business. Fischer was hellbent on embarrassing Bosch, the boss he came to realize was effectively practicing medicine without a license.
The New Times story was a public relations disaster for Commissioner Bud Selig, who had hoped to retire as the man who cleaned up baseball’s steroid problem.
Selig dispatched a team to South Florida, headed by former New York City cop Dan Mullin and including numerous investigators.
After the newspaper refused to turn over its copies of the records, MLB turned its attention to Fischer, offering him as much as $125,000 for the files. By then Fischer realized the value of what he had went beyond his feud with Bosch, and he squirreled away some of the files in a storage locker in Ocala.
MLB eventually enlisted Bosch to their side, promising him money for lawyers, paid security and help in obtaining immunity from possible criminal prosecution.
Mullin, in his quest for information, romanced one of the clinic’s nurses, and an MLB lawyer left messages on a former University of Miami baseball player’s answering machine threatening to get law enforcement involved if he didn’t cooperate.
Many of the major leaguers linked to the clinic had South Florida ties, either to the University of Miami or local training facilities and coaches.
At the top of MLB’s hit list was Rodriguez, 38, who first grooved his swing on the scruffy diamonds of South Miami and went on to become the highest-paid — and most vilified — player in baseball.
Rodriguez, who is appealing his 211-game suspension, has steadfastly denied he purchased or used steroids from Biogenesis. An arbitrator could rule on the appeal as early as next month.
A dozen other players were given 50-game suspensions, and declined to appeal.
MLB officials say they had nothing to do with the theft of the documents — but admit they subsequently paid a lot of cash to obtain them.
Fischer was returning from Ocala on March 24 with the files, intent on turning them over to authorities, when he stopped at Boca Tanning for a spray tan on March 24. Sometime while he was in the salon, someone smashed his car window and stole the records, along with a gun, a laptop and $800 he said he had in a gym bag.
Another tanning customer, Gary Jones, was at the salon at the time, but told police he had nothing to do with it. His van was also broken into, but he declined to file a report.
A couple of weeks later, Jones, a convicted bank robber, approached MLB investigators to try to make a deal. He eventually sold the files for $125,000 cash, and videotaped the transaction with MLB investigators at a South Florida restaurant.
Rodriguez’s lawyers, meanwhile, had hired their own team of detectives, and they persuaded Jones to sign an affidavit admitting he knew they were stolen and sold them to MLB.
Boca Raton police reopened the auto-theft case shortly after the Herald and other outlets published stories about the stolen files being sold to MLB.
H. Scott Fingerhut, the attorney for Fischer, said his client welcomes this week’s arrest.
“Porter is gratified that his call for justice has finally been heeded, and that those responsible for victimizing him [there are surely others, higher up, involved] shall be fairly punished,” Fingerhut said.
Jordan Siev, one of Rodriguez’s lawyers, declined to comment on the arrest.
MLB officials maintain that Mullin didn’t know the documents were stolen.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office has convened a grand jury as part of a federal investigation into the steroid scandal, and the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office is conducting a separate inquiry.