Yuri Sucart, better known as the former personal assistant of steroid-stained slugger Alex Rodriguez, spent two decades taking care of his cousin's every need: driving him around, buying him food, picking up his dry cleaning, even injecting the aging New York Yankees star’s shots of performance-enhancing drugs.
Then the onetime Miami baseball standout dumped Sucart and paid him $900,000 in hush money.
Now suffering from a bad heart and huge medical debts, the 53-year-old Sucart was hoping for a sentence of five months’ home confinement for his conviction of peddling human growth hormones to Major League Baseball stars and aspiring ballplayers. The banned substances were provided by a fake doctor who owned a Coral Gables anti-aging clinic, Biogenesis of America, which was at the center of MLB’s biggest doping scandal.
But on Thursday, U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga, while recognizing Sucart’s serious health problems, imposed a seven-month prison sentence followed by one year of probation with six months of confinement at his home in Kendall. The judge also fined him $5,000 and took him to task for not paying a court-ordered $600-a-month fee toward his publicly financed legal defense.
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Sucart, who uses a walker, apologized to his wife and three children, calling his misconduct a “mistake” while asking the judge for “forgiveness.” But he also said something that probably didn’t help his plea for lenience: “I don’t want to justify my actions, but the many things I did I did out of ignorance and necessity.”
Sucart, a native of the Dominican Republic, was ordered to surrender to prison authorities on Friday. The judge’s decision came close to a recommendation by federal prosecutors Pat Sullivan and Sharad Motiani for an eight-month prison sentence. They argued for prison time because Sucart was among three of eight defendants convicted in the Biogenesis case of distributing steroids to both professional ballplayers and minors.
But after arguing the point that Sucart was a Biogenesis patient himself and had various steroid customers, Motiani caught the judge’s attention with this comment: “This case is not about Alex Rodriguez.”
“You say this case is not about Alex Rodriguez,” Altonaga remarked. “The defendant says this is all about Alex Rodriguez.”
Sucart’s defense attorney, Edward J. O’Donnell IV, argued that Rodriguez publicly turned on his loyal assistant in 2009 when the Yankees slugger was first outed by the news media for using steroids. Back then — one year before Rodriguez became a Biogenesis customer — he had blamed Sucart for providing him with the illicit substances, leading to his assistant’s ban from Major League Baseball.
“To say the least, Mr. Sucart was the fall guy for somebody else,” O’Donnell argued in court. He said that Rodriguez, who started buying testosterone and other illicit drugs from Biogenesis in 2010, eventually had a falling out with Sucart.
“He was left with nothing,” O’Donnell said, explaining why Sucart began selling performance-enhancing drugs to minor league players. “He found himself in a desperate situation.”
The Drug Enforcement Administration, which was tipped off by Major League Baseball investigators to the Rodriguez-Biogenesis connection in the fall of 2012, carried out an undercover investigation that led to the downfall of clinic owner Anthony Bosch, Sucart and other associates involved in the South Florida steroid network.
In March, Rodriguez’s cousin became the last remaining defendant to plead guilty in the federal probe.
Sucart admitted that he conspired with others to distribute human growth hormones to athletes, from Rodriguez to others of high school age, between 2010 and 2013. A total of seven other defendants, including Bosch, previously pleaded guilty and received sentences ranging from probation to four years in prison.
Major League Baseball's investigation into the use of banned substances linked to Biogenesis resulted in the suspensions of 14 players, including Rodriguez for all of last season. Rodriguez, now back with the Yankees as a designated hitter, avoided having to testify in open court with Sucart's guilty plea.
Rodriguez, who had publicly denied using performance-enhancing drugs, gave a closed-door statement to Drug Enforcement Administration agents in January 2014 about how he came to know Bosch through Sucart and followed a protocol of taking PEDS over a three-year period.
During spring training earlier this year, the three-time American League MVP finally apologized in a handwritten note for his misconduct.