Crime

Alex Rodriguez and the fake-money-passing felon

In this Aug. 5, 2013 file photo, New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez, with his hand to his head, talks during a news conference before the Yankees played the Chicago White Sox in a baseball game at US Cellular Field in Chicago. The owner of a now-defunct Florida clinic was charged Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014, with conspiracy to distribute steroids, more than a year after he was accused of providing performance-enhancing drugs to Yankees star Alex Rodriguez and other players. Federal court records show Anthony Bosch is charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute testosterone.
In this Aug. 5, 2013 file photo, New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez, with his hand to his head, talks during a news conference before the Yankees played the Chicago White Sox in a baseball game at US Cellular Field in Chicago. The owner of a now-defunct Florida clinic was charged Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014, with conspiracy to distribute steroids, more than a year after he was accused of providing performance-enhancing drugs to Yankees star Alex Rodriguez and other players. Federal court records show Anthony Bosch is charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute testosterone. AP

Of all the sketchy characters caught up in the Alex Rodriguez steroid saga, possibly none is more curious than Gary Jones.

A one-time passer of counterfeit currency who recently pleaded guilty to peddling fake prescription pills and selling an AK-47, Jones could be troublesome for the New York Yankees superstar. Jones would likely be a central witness if federal prosecutors ever decide to charge the ballplayer with obstructing justice as part of the ongoing probe of a now-closed South Florida anti-aging clinic that sold Rodriguez banned substances.

The story of A-Rod and Jones — reflected in records, some of them confidential, from Major League Baseball and the Boca Raton police — revolves around a $200,000 wire transfer, furtive meetings with baseball’s lead investigator, a sworn affidavit that appears to have been a lie and a telltale tape, surreptitiously shot in a restaurant, that may or may not exist.

Last fall, Rodriguez was fighting a record-long suspension for using banned muscle-building drugs obtained from Anthony Bosch’s Biogenesis of America clinic in Coral Gables. His last best hope was to discredit the efforts of Major League Baseball and make it appear that league officials were cutting corners and breaking the law in their zeal to nail him as a repeat steroid user.

Enter Gary Jones. He had obtained copies of Biogenesis patient records soon after the Miami New Times broke the story in late January 2013 about the clinic’s distribution of banned steroids to Rodriguez and other MLB players.

In an affidavit, Jones said he sold some of the documents to MLB’s top investigator at the Cosmos Diner in Pompano Beach for $125,000 during their first exchange — a March 20, 2013, meeting supposedly videotaped by a friend of Jones sitting at a nearby table. Jones also said that a few weeks later he sold more documents for $25,000 to the investigator, former New York City detective Dan Mullin, at the same diner.

Jones, who went by the made-up name “Bobby,” may have acquired the first batch of patient records from Porter Fischer, a disgruntled Biogenesis investor who had originally swiped them from the clinic because the owner, Anthony Bosch, stiffed him on a $4,000 loan.

Fischer also frequented the same Boca Raton tanning parlor as Jones, who worked there as a repairman. Jones may have acquired the second batch after they were stolen from Fischer’s van parked outside the parlor, which led to a police investigation.

Rodriguez, who had a team of investigators and lawyers on his payroll, eventually learned of Jones’ big payday from Major League Baseball and set out to prove that the league knowingly bought “stolen” Biogenesis records to build their steroid case against the Yankees slugger. Rodriguez’s lead investigator, Andrew O’Connell, a former FBI agent and federal prosecutor, asked Jones for a sworn statement. In it, he said he had told the MLB’s investigator “repeatedly” that the records he was buying were “stolen.”

On the same day the affidavit was signed, Sept. 30, 2013, O’Connell’s firm, Guidepost Solutions LLC, wired $200,000 to Jones in Boca Raton, according to confidential MLB records obtained by the Miami Herald. The money was not to buy his testimony, according to an invoice. It stipulated the money was for a secret video of the meeting between Jones and Mullin at the diner.

The video figured to be a powerful weapon in Rodriguez’s arsenal, allowing him to show an arbitrator reconsidering his punishment that MLB knowingly bought stolen goods. Oddly, the video was never produced as evidence at Rodriguez's arbitration hearing in New York last fall — probably because it didn’t exist.

More than a month after Jones signed the statement, he left a cryptic voicemail message for Mullin, according to a transcript of the recording obtained from the Boca Raton police.

“Hey, you know who this is,” Jones said in the Nov. 3, 2013, message. “Just listen. There’s no video, No. 1. I’m not testifying at all, No. 2.

“And I’m pretty sure I can put those four books of documents [stolen from Bosch] in that player’s hands.”

He signed off with a “God bless” and “bye, bye.”

Video or no video, MLB officials are adamant that Jones never told them the Biogenesis records they bought were “stolen.”

MLB officials say Rodriguez’s $200,000 payment to Jones was part of an orchestrated “cover-up” to cast the league in the worst possible light to show that the commissioner was out to get him at any cost. They claim that the Yankees infielder paid off other witnesses, including former Biogenesis owner Bosch, to keep the lid on his steroid use.

A Miami attorney representing MLB, Andrew Levi, declined to comment for this story.

Bosch, who passed himself off as a doctor but wasn’t one, would flip against baseball’s highest paid player in mid-2013 — telling all about Rodriguez’s use of illegal substances under a cooperation agreement with big league officials and later with federal prosecutors in Miami, who were building cases against some of the characters involved in Biogenesis.

Ultimately, the independent arbitrator, lawyer Fredric Horowitz, reduced Rodriguez’s 211-game suspension to 162 games in January, causing the Yankees third baseman to miss the entire 2014 season.

Horowitz’s 34-page arbitration report — also signed by representatives of MLB and baseball’s union — disclosed details of Rodriguez’s use of banned performance-enhancing drugs, such as testosterone and human growth hormones, which were administered by injections, infusions, creams or lozenges between 2010 and 2012. During that period, Rodriguez never tested positive. The report also revealed some of Rodriguez’s other efforts to bribe witnesses and acquire evidence that could ruin his stellar baseball career.

In early 2013, through intermediaries, Rodriguez paid $10,000 to Fischer to obtain Bosch’s stolen notebook documents detailing patients and their use of steroids, according to the arbitrator’s report. The documents had somehow been acquired from Fischer by attorney Roy Black’s Miami law firm, which represented Rodriguez, the report said.

In late May 2013, just before agreeing to cooperate with MLB authorities, Bosch refused to sign a sworn statement — presented by Rodriguez's investigator — that said he never sold steroids to the Yankees slugger or saw him use them, the report said.

MLB officials asserted that Rodriguez also attempted to pay Bosch to leave the country to stop him from testifying at the arbitration hearing, the report stated.

Rodriguez’s team had better luck with a personal athletic trainer, Bruli Medina Reyes, who had signed a sworn statement for MLB that said he observed Bosch and Rodriguez’s cousin, Yuri Sucart, injecting the ballplayer with steroids, according to the arbitrator’s report. In September 2013, Medina recanted his statement, saying it was “false” — after Rodriguez’s close friend, Jose “Pepe” Gomez, promised he “would take care of him,” the report said.

“These actions, viewed in the context of the record as a whole, were clearly designed to cover up Rodriguez’s relationship with Bosch and the fact that Rodriguez had received [performance- enhancing substances] from Bosch,” Horowitz ruled in January, adding that the ballplayer aimed “to inhibit” MLB’s investigation of his use of banned steroids.

In addition, it was recently revealed in Miami federal court that Rodriguez paid $900,000 to Sucart, his longtime personal assistant, to keep their interactions over 20 years confidential as part of a settlement deal.

Despite the trail of evidence suggesting Rodriguez may have tampered with witnesses, the Yankees infielder is not expected to be charged as part of the federal criminal case filed against Bosch and seven other defendants this year. They’re accused of conspiring to distribute steroids to 14 suspended professional ballplayers, including former Most Valuable Players Rodriguez and Ryan Braun, and to a smaller number of high school athletes in South Florida. Half of the defendants, including Bosch, have pleaded guilty.

Rodriguez, a one-time Miami-Dade high school standout and University of Miami benefactor whose name is on UM's Coral Gables baseball stadium, received the longest suspension and was the only one to appeal his punishment. The 39-year-old Rodriguez was reinstated to the Yankees after the 2014 World Series.

After the arbitrator's ruling, Rodriguez received limited immunity from Assistant U.S. Attorney Pat Sullivan in Miami and then admitted to federal authorities in late January that he used steroids purchased from Biogenesis over three seasons in 2010-12 at a cost of $12,000 a month, according to a Herald review of his statement to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Under his “direct-use immunity” agreement, Rodriguez cannot be charged for what he admitted to prosecutors. As a policy matter, he would not be charged as a steroid buyer anyway in the Biogenesis conspiracy.

But the ballplayer could be charged if he lied, or if he generated “leads” that result in the gathering of independent evidence that could be used against him in a separate prosecution.

After the Herald revealed his client’s confession to the DEA, Rodriguez’s defense attorney, Joseph Tacopina, declared a victory of sorts.

“He didn’t get indicted,” Tacopina, who has not responded to Herald requests for interviews, told New York Magazine. “He’s not like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens,” both of whom stood trial for lying about their use of banned substances. Clemens was acquitted. Bonds is still appealing an obstruction conviction.

“It’s over. Game. Set. Match,” Tacopina told the magazine.

Some longtime Miami attorneys question why Rodriguez appears to be getting a pass from prosecutors on potential obstruction charges — misconduct that is commonly prosecuted in drug trafficking, white-collar fraud and other criminal cases.

“In my experience, when there is credible evidence of participating in a cover-up, the person is charged with obstruction of justice,” said Jon Sale, a criminal defense attorney who formerly served as a senior federal prosecutor in Miami.

Sale said that is generally the rule — “unless there are special circumstances, such as extraordinary cooperation to the extent that the government could not make the bigger case without the subject’s testimony.”

David Weinstein, a criminal defense lawyer who formerly served as narcotics chief for the U.S. attorney’s office, said that Rodriguez’s testimony “didn’t qualify as extraordinary cooperation.”

“Prosecutors had already made the case against Bosch and some of the others when they agreed to cooperate,” Weinstein said. “Plus, there were a dozen other witnesses, including Major League ballplayers, who used steroids from Biogenesis and provided the same testimony.

“Prosecutors could still make an obstruction of justice case if it were based on testimony or evidence independent of Rodriguez’s immunized statement,” Weinstein said.

Defense attorney Frank Quintero is representing a prominent Miami-Dade baseball coach, Lazaro “Lazer” Collazo, who has been charged with conspiring with Bosch to distribute steroids to “many” high school ballplayers. Quintero, who declined to comment for this story, has said his client referred only three parents of teenage players to Bosch, believing he was an actual doctor.

In court papers filed last week, Quintero questioned why Collazo has been charged while at least nine MLB ballplayers, including Rodriguez, have received limited immunity and are escaping prosecution.

Quintero noted that Rodriguez’s defense attorney should know better that the ballplayer’s immunity agreement “would not bar prosecution against his client under certain circumstances,” such as lying to authorities or tampering with witnesses.

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