A chemist who cooked up testosterone in his Miami-Dade garage that fed the steroid appetites of Yankees superstar Alex Rodriguez and other pro ballplayers pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in federal court on Thursday.
Paulo Berejuk, who was the “Breaking Bad” manufacturer for steroid distributors in South Florida, faces between two and three years in prison at his sentencing on Feb. 25 before U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga.
The judge granted the 51-year-old Brazilian citizen a $150,000 bond without having to wear an electronic monitor. “I will give him some freedom so he can enjoy his family before sentencing,” Altonaga told Berejuk and his defense lawyer, Robert Barrar, in Miami federal court.
As part of his plea agreement, the “black market” chemist admitted selling between 5,000 and 10,000 units of testosterone from 2007 to 2013. He has agreed to cooperate with authorities and must turn over his 32-foot Intrepid motorboat to the U.S. government.
Berejuk became the fifth of eight defendants charged in the controversial steroid probe to plead guilty to the single distribution-conspiracy charge since the case was filed in August. A sixth defendant, Juan Carlos Nuñez, accused of distributing steroids to several Major League Baseball players, pleaded guilty to the same charge on Friday. Two remaining defendants are scheduled for trial next year.
Berejuk, a low-profile figure in a high-profile criminal case that shook the MLB ranks, was the steroid supplier for two business partners in the Coral Gables anti-aging clinic, Biogenesis of America, and for the owner of another local clinic, Boca Body. Anthony Bosch, the ringleader, Carlos Acevedo, the Biogenesis partner, and Jorge Velazquez, a key steroid supplier who owned Boca Body, have all pleaded guilty.
Bosch and Acevedo helped federal authorities target Berejuk, who was arrested in October.
According to court records, Miami-Dade physician Carlos Nazier introduced Bosch to the steroid chemist in 2007. Nazier, who was a onetime partner with Bosch, had used Berejuk as his supplier before he was convicted of illicitly selling steroids and lost his medical license.
According to Bosch, “Berejuk had considerable knowledge of chemistry and was capable of manufacturing controlled substances out of raw materials” in his garage in suburban Kendall, court records show.
Bosch purchased testosterone and human growth hormones from Berejuk, paying him $20,000 a month between 2007 and 2011, records show. Bosch, in his plea agreement, admitted distributing steroids to MLB players, high school athletes and others.
In 2011, Berejuk sold a portion of his business to Velazquez, and they continued to supply Biogenesis as well as Boca Body.
The steroid scandal erupted in January 2013 after Miami New Times reported Rodriguez’s connection to Bosch and Biogenesis. MLB’s investigation led to the suspension of Rodriguez and 13 other ballplayers, including former National League MVP Ryan Braun.
Rodriguez, suspended for 211 games, was the only player to appeal. An independent arbitrator reduced that penalty to 162 games last January. The aging New York Yankees slugger sat out the entire 2014 season, returning to the team after this fall’s World Series.
Rodriguez, who publicly denied using steroids, admitted last January to Drug Enforcement Administration agents and federal prosecutors Pat Sullivan and Sharad Motiani that he bought banned performance-enhancing drugs from Bosch between late 2010 and October 2012. Rodriguez said he paid Bosch $12,000 a month over that period.
The last remaining defendants in the steroid case are Rodriguez’s former longtime personal assistant, Yuri Sucart, and prominent Miami-Dade baseball coach, Lazaro “Lazer” Collazo. They are scheduled for trial in February.
Sucart, who is in poor health, is seeking to have the trial delayed at least two months. Altonaga, the judge, set the trial for April 6.