Crime

Baseball goes to bat for steroid peddler Anthony Bosch

Anthony Bosch, right, former owner of the Biogenesis of America clinic, leaves the federal courthouse in August.
Anthony Bosch, right, former owner of the Biogenesis of America clinic, leaves the federal courthouse in August. MIAMI HERALD FILE

Anthony Bosch — steroid dealer, fake doctor and cokehead — is not a guy who would normally elicit sympathy.

But because he dished inside information about his big league customers, resulting in a record suspension of 14 pro ballplayers, he has powerful forces pulling for him.

As Bosch awaits sentencing in February, lawyers for Major League Baseball — whose operation he corrupted from his anti-aging clinic in Coral Gables — are pointedly telling prosecutors what a great help he has been in cleaning up the sport. In a letter, they likened Bosch to a onetime New York Mets batboy who got caught up in an earlier steroid scandal and received lenient treatment after cooperating with authorities.

So far, six individuals have been convicted in the latest steroid scandal. The lawyer for one of the remaining two defendants is trying to find out just how cozy Bosch and baseball have become. He is trying to subpoena records showing what MLB has paid Bosch — possibly millions of dollars for legal fees, security and publicity — and what favors the league has done him for his cooperation.

A short sentence of one year — as opposed to three times that long — is possible for Bosch, 51, who pleaded guilty in October and is free on bail despite testing positive for cocaine use during court-ordered monitoring that began after he surrendered in August. Prosecutors have already agreed to recommend a sentence reduction in his plea deal, as long as Bosch, who is in a substance-abuse program, tells the truth.

Despite his tarnished reputation, Bosch began attracting support from MLB officials soon after the steroid scandal broke and the league sued him in 2013 — especially when the onetime anti-aging guru agreed that June to turn on his customers, including New York Yankees superstar Alex Rodriguez.

Soon after, high-powered MLB lawyers, including former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, sought a meeting with the U.S. attorney in Miami to promote Bosch’s role as the league’s star witness against Rodriguez and the other ballplayers, according to newly disclosed court records. They were hoping to gain assurances from the U.S. attorney’s office that it would consider Bosch’s assistance to Major League Baseball.

The meeting was held in U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer’s office in September 2013. Mitchell, the former Democratic Senate majority leader, and two other league lawyers pitched him on Bosch’s contribution to MLB’s investigation of banned substance use. Members of Ferrer’s senior staff were also present.

In a follow-up letter, baseball’s lawyers thanked Ferrer for hosting the meeting, while stressing that Bosch’s assistance “was critical to MLB’s efforts to successfully sanction” the 14 players with lengthy suspensions, including Rodriguez.

MLB’s lead attorney, Charles Scheeler, with the Washington law firm, DLA Piper, highlighted Bosch’s “full cooperation” — including testifying against Rodriguez at an arbitration hearing in New York. He explained that, in exchange, the league agreed to inform authorities of his assistance.

But he also said: “To be clear, this letter makes no attempt to address Bosch’s criminal liability for his conduct.”

Scheeler credited Bosch with turning over to MLB detailed notes about his sale of testosterone and human growth hormones to Rodriguez and the other ballplayers, and with providing text messages of correspondence with them regarding their use of the illicit drugs. He noted that Bosch also admitted distributing steroids to high school athletes, which was of “significance beyond baseball.”

“Bosch’s decision to assist MLB carried with it a high degree of personal sacrifice and risk on his part,” Scheeler wrote in the Jan. 23, 2014, letter, knowing that the U.S. attorney’s office would subpoena his “incriminating testimony.”

“Moreover, Bosch received threats from Rodriguez’s [associates] to induce him to lie about his relationship with Rodriguez,” he wrote. “After Bosch began cooperating with MLB, Bosch expressed legitimate concerns for his personal safety.”

On Friday, Ferrer declined to comment about the meeting and letter, citing the ongoing investigation. The U.S. attorney reiterated a point he had made at a news conference in August, when Bosch and the other defendants were charged with running a steroid-distribution conspiracy.

“We have repeatedly made it very clear that our investigation was going to be independent of Major League Baseball,” Ferrer said Friday.

A Miami attorney, Andrew Levi, on behalf of MLB’s legal team, declined to comment. Bosch’s defense lawyer Guy Lewis, a former U.S. attorney in Miami, also won’t talk about his client’s pending sentencing.

Former prosecutors in the Miami office said recommending shorter prison sentences for cooperating witnesses who testify about other criminal suspects — from violent drug-trafficking to white-collar fraud investigations — is standard operating procedure in the federal justice system.

In the Bosch case, what was unusual was the September 2013 meeting between the U.S. attorney and MLB’s lawyers — Scheeler, Ignacio “Iggy” Sanchez and Mitchell, who had led baseball’s 2006-07 investigation into steroid use by professional ballplayers.

Normally, defense lawyers representing the interests of a criminal “target” such as Bosch would meet with the so-called line prosecutors. In the Bosch case, those prosecutors, Pat Sullivan and Sharad Motiani, did not attend the 2013 meeting at the U.S. attorney’s office.

The meeting was mentioned in passing in the 10-page letter written by MLB’s lawyer, Scheeler. It surfaced in court documents filed by a Miami attorney for one of the remaining defendants in the steroid case, Lazaro “Lazer” Collazo. A former University of Miami assistant baseball coach, he is accused of conspiring with Bosch to sell steroids to high school players.

His defense attorney, Frank Quintero, has been trying to subpoena what he called “relevant” evidence about Bosch from Major League Baseball and prosecutors, including the league’s payments for Bosch’s defense. But they have refused to turn it over, accusing him of a “fishing expedition.”

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga issued a limited order, requiring MLB to hand over all financial records regarding its payments to Bosch and other witnesses.

Quintero noted that under two agreements, Major League Baseball has paid hundreds of thousands and possibly millions of dollars for Bosch’s legal fees, a security guard and even a publicist. In effect, he argued, MLB officials have manipulated the federal criminal investigation, starting with baseball’s initial tip to the Drug Enforcement Administration in September 2012.

“Bosch’s status as a paid-for witness forms a crucial part of the defense theory for trial,” Quintero wrote in a court filing last week.

MLB’s steroid problem surfaced nearly a decade ago, when then-Commissioner Bud Selig enlisted Mitchell to head an investigation. In 2007, he issued the Mitchell Report, which detailed the game’s pervasive doping. In the aftermath, Selig created an investigations division and negotiated a new labor contract containing a tough drug-testing program.

MLB’s probe of Rodriguez, a onetime Miami-Dade standout who became baseball’s highest-paid player, led to a major controversy. The league, which deployed private investigators to South Florida, took criticism for its aggressive tactics, including allegations of paying for evidence and threatening witnesses.

When Bosch eventually turned on Rodriguez and the other ballplayers in mid-2013, MLB moved ahead with the suspensions — even absent positive tests for performance-enhancing substances. Rodriguez was the only player to appeal.

At an arbitration hearing in October 2013, Bosch denied that he did anything wrong but fingered Rodriguez as a steroid user who paid him $12,000 a month for black-market drugs over three years. The Yankees slugger was ordered to sit out the entire 2014 season.

In last year’s letter to the U.S. attorney, MLB’s lawyers cited the case of Kirk Radomski as an example to consider in light of Bosch’s cooperation now.

Radomski, a former batboy and clubhouse employee for the New York Mets, pleaded guilty in April 2007 to money laundering and the illegal distribution of steroids and other drugs to dozens of current and former MLB players. He was sentenced to five years’ probation and ordered to pay a fine of $18,575 after the Justice Department recognized his cooperation in Mitchell’s investigation.

“Admittedly, there are very few situations analogous to Bosch’s,” Scheeler, the MLB lawyer, wrote to Ferrer, the U.S. attorney. “You are, of course, familiar with the Kirk Radomski case.

“But it bears noting that Radomski admitted to dealing illegal [performance-enhancing substances] to scores of persons [many of whom were MLB players, some who were not] for over a decade,” he wrote.

Then, the letter, promising “our complete cooperation,” ended on this note: “Major League Baseball is grateful to you and your office for giving consideration to these facts as you decide upon an appropriate resolution for the investigation of Mr. Bosch.”

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