Miami-Dade County

When A-Rod met ‘Ugi’ — the supplier in Alex Rodriguez’s steroid use

Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees speaks to the media before his game for the Charleston RiverDogs at Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park on July 2, 2013 in Charleston, South Carolina.
Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees speaks to the media before his game for the Charleston RiverDogs at Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park on July 2, 2013 in Charleston, South Carolina. Getty Images

Alex Rodriguez first met “Dr. Tony Bosch,” as the anti-aging guru introduced himself, at a Tampa hotel after a game in 2010. They were not alone in the room.

Also present: the famed ballplayer’s personal assistant, Yuri Sucart, and the fake Miami physician’s steroid supplier, Jorge Velazquez, aka “Ugi.”

In describing the meeting to federal agents last January, the New York Yankees slugger swore “he knew Velazquez from Miami but was not friends with him” — and that he was “upset” about his presence.

“After the meeting, Rodriguez told Sucart to never bring Velazquez around again,” according to a summary of Rodriguez’s statement to the Drug Enforcement Administration. “Sucart agreed.”

But Rodriguez — who was required by law to give a “truthful and complete” statement to the DEA under a limited immunity deal known as a “queen for a day letter” — appears to have held back information as he distanced himself from Velazquez.

In fact, Velazquez “arranged” the first meeting in Tampa, boasted about Bosch’s credentials and met with Rodriguez numerous times after that gathering, according to the report of an independent arbitrator for Major League Baseball. Velazquez collected thousands of dollars in steroid payments from the ballplayer to deliver to Bosch, too.

Velazquez also acted as a middleman between Rodriguez and Bosch, helping to carry out his secret efforts to pay off the steroid dealer to silence him after a published report of the ballplayer’s steroid use, according to Bosch’s statement last April to the DEA.

For months after the Miami New Times broke the story in early 2013, revealing that several MLB ballplayers frequented a Coral Gables steroid dispensary, Rodriguez lied publicly over and over again. He insisted he had never been a customer of Bosch’s clinic, Biogenesis of America. But when he met with the DEA in late January of this year, he admitted his steroid use while swearing an oath to tell the truth in his immunity letter, according to a Miami Herald review of his statement.

If prosecutors find that he did not testify truthfully, he could be damaged as a potential government witness at an upcoming steroid-distribution trial, legal experts say. What’s more, Rodriguez’s limited immunity agreement, which prevents prosecutors from using his admissions of steroid use and paying bribes to Bosch and Sucart against him, could also be in jeopardy.

“A-Rod’s statement, and his lack of mentioning any subsequent meetings with Velazquez, was more of an omission than an outright lie,” said Miami attorney David Weinstein, a former narcotics chief in the U.S. attorney’s office who has been following the Bosch steroid case.

“So it might not necessarily be perjury as much as it would be a violation of his queen for a day letter,” he said. “That could make him less valuable as a witness and potentially vulnerable to prosecution based on his now-unprotected statements.”

Rodriguez’s attorney, Joseph Tacopina, and Velazquez’s lawyer, George Vila, did not respond to several requests to comment for this story.

In November, the Miami Herald exclusively reported that the 39-year-old Rodriguez admitted to DEA agents back in January that he had used banned performance-enhancing drugs during his career with the Yankees. He had purchased testosterone and human growth hormones 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 Herald.

Last year, the onetime Miami-Dade high school standout was among 14 ballplayers suspended by the MLB commissioner for their links to the Biogenesis clinic.

Bosch’s main steroid supplier, Velazquez, has a criminal history, including two arrests last year, charging him with assault and battery on his girlfriend, court records show. In October, the 44-year-old Coral Gables man pleaded guilty to conspiring with Bosch to distribute banned substances to Rodriguez and other Major League Baseball players. But curiously, unlike Bosch, who also pleaded guilty, Velazquez is not cooperating with prosecutors in a bid to reduce his prison sentence.

In his ruling issued in January, baseball’s arbitrator found that it was Velazquez who arranged for Bosch to meet Rodriguez at the Tampa hotel in July 2010 — not the ballplayer’s longtime assistant, Sucart, as Rodriguez told DEA agents. And that it was Velazquez, originally a steroid client himself, who had introduced Bosch to his friend, Sucart, who also became a customer, the arbitrator found.

At that first meeting in Tampa, “Velazquez described Bosch as the best at what he does and said Bosch could provide Rodriguez with everything he needed,” the arbitrator, lawyer Fredric Horowitz, wrote in his Jan. 11 decision, which was based substantially on Bosch’s testimony during the arbitration hearing last fall in New York. DEA agents had the arbitrator’s report in hand before questioning the Yankees infielder 18 days later.

“In early August 2010, Bosch traveled to New York and met Rodriguez at his Manhattan apartment with Velazquez and Sucart present,” Horowitz wrote. “Before leaving New York, Bosch told Velazquez that he required a down payment of $10,000 to $12,000. Bosch was assured by Velazquez that he would get the money from Rodriguez to give to Bosch on his next visit.”

Bosch, who pretended to be a real doctor while taking the Yankee superstar's blood and urine samples, designed a protocol of testosterone creams and lozenges along with human growth hormone injections.

“Bosch returned to New York the following week to meet Rodriguez with Velazquez and Sucart in the same apartment,” the arbitrator wrote. “Bosch explained the entire protocol to Sucart and portions of the protocol to Rodriguez. … Velazquez gave Bosch $8,000-$10,000 in cash for payment, stating the money was from Rodriguez.”

During 2011, Bosch regularly supplied performance-enhancing drugs to Rodriguez through his personal assistant, Sucart, according to the arbitrator’s report. Rodriguez or one of his businesses, A-Rod Corporation, made “miscellaneous payments” totaling more than $160,000 to Sucart to pay for the ballplayer’s steroid supply in 2010 and 2011.

But Velazquez also played a key part: “For his services, Bosch was given monthly payments of $4,000-$6,000 in cash from Rodriguez through Velazquez,” the arbitrator’s report stated.

Rodriguez did not disclose any of this information about Velazquez to DEA agents. Rodriguez told them that while he was upset about Velazquez’s presence at that first meeting with Bosch and Sucart in Tampa, the ballplayer said Velazquez “did not say much,” contradicting the arbitrator’s report.

In his DEA statement, Rodriguez initially implied that he met Velazquez only once. Rodriguez also said he did not know Velazquez was Bosch’s steroid supplier because the Biogenesis clinic owner told the ballplayer that he received his performance-enhancing drugs from compounding pharmacies.

Later in his statement, Rodriguez “stated he only had seen Velazquez a handful of times throughout his lifetime,” adding that he was from Miami and traveled “in the same circles at times.” Rodriguez said he had once seen Velazquez at the LIV nightclub in Miami Beach, without Bosch or Sucart.

But “Rodriguez stated he does not have a relationship with Velazquez” — a declaration that the DEA agents did not probe further.

Bosch, who would ultimately shake down A-Rod for money before snitching on him to major league and federal authorities, offered a different account when he later met with those same DEA agents in April of this year.

Bosch squeezed Rodriguez, baseball’s highest paid player, multiple times for money — with Velazquez often playing the go-between.

After his illicit steroid business shut down in January 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 DEA agents.

Bosch said he tapped A-Rod, who was no longer using steroids at that point. Bosch said Rodriguez agreed to pick up his bill for a couple of months to replenish the drug supply — 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, Bosch told DEA agents.

According to Bosch, Rodriguez “told Velazquez to tell Bosch that [he] would purchase the performance-enhancing substances from Velazquez for Bosch to dispense to his customers.”

Rodriguez never mentioned this arrangement in his statement to DEA agents.

In his statement to DEA agents, Bosch also said he met with Velazquez and Rodriguez’s longtime friend and business partner, 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.”

After his illicit steroid business shut down that January, Rodriguez paid $10,000 to a disgruntled former Biogenesis employee, Porter Fischer, to obtain notebook documents detailing patients and their use of steroids, according to the baseball arbitrator's report. Fischer had stolen them from Bosch after the latter stiffed him on a $4,000 loan.

The documents had somehow been acquired from Fischer by the Miami law firm of famed attorney Roy Black, who represented Rodriguez, according to the report. Again, Velazquez came into the picture, playing a role in recovering those incriminating notebooks from Black’s firm, the report stated.

Fischer contradicted that account in the report, saying that Velazquez and another man, Peter Carbone, threatened him to get the documents back. Fischer said he gave them the records and Carbone later paid him his $4,000.

Later in 2013, Velazquez offered to pay Bosch $50,000 from Rodriguez to leave the country to stop him from disclosing his steroid use, according to Bosch’s statement to DEA agents. The former Biogenesis owner turned down the apparent bribe and became the main witness for MLB’s probe of A-Rod, a repeat steroid offender who had been outed in 2009 for previous use of banned substances.

Since prosecutors filed distribution charges in August, Bosch, Velazquez, Bosch’s business partner, Carlos Acevedo, and deliveryman Christopher Engroba have pleaded guilty.

Two others, distributor Juan Carlos Nunez and steroid chemist Paulo Berejuk, plan to plead guilty this week.

Velazquez obtained his supply of performance-enhancing drugs from Berejuk, who is accused of concocting testosterone in his Kendall garage.

Rodriguez’s former assistant, Sucart, whom he paid $900,000 last year to keep his mouth shut about their relationship, plans to go to trial in February. An eighth defendant, prominent Miami-Dade baseball coach Lazaro “Lazer” Collazo, accused of distributing steroids to high school players, also faces trial.

If Rodriguez becomes a witness in either of the pending cases — a possibility — defense attorneys could attack his veracity, citing the omissions in his testimony to the DEA. And, the aging slugger could find himself in trouble for not having lived up to the terms of his immunity deal.

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