Jorge Velazquez, a convicted drug supplier who played a supporting role in Major League Baseball’s steroid scandal, says he turned to the lucrative “black market” after his Miami-Dade liquor business and personal life crumbled during the 2008 economic meltdown, according to court records.
Velazquez, 44, is hoping that a federal judge will give him less than 21/2 years in prison on Tuesday for supplying unlawful steroids to a Coral Gables anti-aging clinic that sold testosterone and human growth hormones to New York Yankees superstar Alex Rodriguez and other MLB players.
Velazquez is not formally cooperating with federal prosecutors, who charged him and seven co-conspirators with distributing banned performance-enhancing drugs to professional ballplayers and high school athletes.
But his defense attorney, George Vila, is seeking a break from U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga after disclosing in court papers that Velazquez “furnished a laptop computer” with “significant information” that “assisted” prosecutors in making their case. Six of the eight defendants, including Velazquez, have pleaded guilty since steroid-distribution charges were filed in August.
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Vila also sought sympathy for his client, noting his history of substance abuse, while downplaying his past criminal record and omitting his arrests on domestic battery complaints filed by his girlfriend last year.
“Not having the right state-of-mind after all of life’s downturns that Mr. Velazquez’s life took in such a short time span, and with the abuse of alcohol and drugs, he unfortunately made the decision to join in the commission of this [steroid-distribution] crime,” Vila wrote in a motion seeking a lenient sentence.
Vila said his client “has changed his life for the better,” opening legitimate businesses that provide building-permit and wheel-repair services.
Velazquez’s parents, along with his younger brother and sister, also filed letters with the court, saying he has worked hard as an “entrepreneur” throughout his life to help support the family. Before he turned to the illicit steroid business, Velazquez owned two liquor stores in Kendall.
“My family and I were shocked and disappointed to learn of his involvement in this situation,” his sister, Sharon Velazquez Hopkins, wrote the judge. “I pray for a positive outcome to this nightmarish predicament.”
Velazquez pleaded guilty in October to conspiring with Anthony Bosch, the convicted former owner of the Biogenesis of America clinic. Now shuttered, Biogenesis was at the center of the steroid controversy that led to last year’s lengthy suspensions of 14 MLB players, including Rodriguez, a onetime Miami-Dade high school standout.
Under sentencing guidelines, Velazquez faces between 21/2 and 3 years in prison, though prosecutors Pat Sullivan and Sharad Motiani have agreed to recommend the lower end. Still, it’s unclear how the judge will respond to Velazquez’s role in the conspiracy, including investing in the testosterone manufacturing business of a convicted steroid chemist, Paulo Berejuk, and distributing between 5,000 and 10,000 units of testosterone through Biogenesis to athletes.
Velazquez came to know Bosch, who pretended to be a Florida-licensed physician, as a steroid client who would become his main supplier at Biogenesis. Velazquez also operated his own local anti-aging clinic, Boca Body.
Velazquez also supplied steroids to Rodriguez’s longtime personal assistant, Yuri Sucart, even after the Yankees slugger stopped using them in the fall of 2012 and Biogenesis closed in January 2013, according to court records. Those offenses were dropped from the original indictment as part of Velazquez’s plea agreement.
Sucart, charged with distributing testosterone and human growth hormones to both professional and high school athletes, faces trial in April. Now in poor health, Sucart had a falling out with Rodriguez over money in 2012.
Also facing trial: Lazaro “Lazer” Collazo, a high-profile Miami-Dade baseball coach who is accused of distributing steroids to high school ballplayers. His attorney, Frank Quintero, said his client believed Bosch was an actual doctor and referred only a handful of parents to him. He said the parents brought their adolescent children to Bosch’s clinic.