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9 Arrested for Operating International Steroid Distribution Ring

FEB 22 (BROOKLYN, N.Y.) –– Carl J. Kotowski, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s New Jersey Division and Robert L. Capers, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York announced today the arrests of nine defendants for their role in an international steroid distribution ring.

The charges against the defendants stem from an investigation into a Miami-based company named Wellness Fitness Nutrition, LLC (WFN). WFN’s founder and CEO, Richard Rodriguez, purported that WFN was an “FDA compliant” pharmacy and laboratory licensed to distribute anabolic steroids, which are controlled substances under federal law. In fact, the investigation revealed that WFN was not licensed by the DEA to distribute steroids and routinely dispensed steroids to customers without the requisite medical prescriptions. WFN marketed and sold its wide array of anabolic steroids through its website www.wellnessfitnessnutrition.com.

During the year-long investigation which began in 2015, led by the New Jersey DEA Tactical Diversion Squad, Special Agents and Task Force Officers were able to track the purchase of raw steroid materials by WFN from various companies in China. This raw steroid powder was shipped to a clandestine laboratory in Phoenix, Arizona where it was subsequently manufactured by the defendants into both liquid and pill-form steroids. The finished steroid product was then sent back to Miami where it was labeled, packaged and shipped to WFN’s domestic and international customers. Over the course of the investigation, undercover New Jersey DEA Special Agents and Task Force Officers made undercover purchases of over $30,000 worth of illicit anabolic steroids from the WFN defendants. A review of WFN customer lists revealed that WFN shipped steroids to at least 50 customers in the Eastern District of New York.

Additionally, the financial investigation into WFN revealed that the company laundered over a million dollars in illicit proceeds back into the operation of its national distribution ring and moved at least $10 million in illicit proceeds through various WFN and related entities’ bank accounts.

Today, in connection with the arrests, special agents and task force officers executed search warrants at the clandestine lab in Phoenix, Arizona and at the WFN offices and shipping facility located in Miami, Florida. Seven of the defendants were arrested in Miami, two in Phoenix, and one remaining defendant is being sought in Phoenix.

“The results of this investigation send a clear message to the public. It doesn’t matter if you are peddling heroin, cocaine or steroids. If you break the law, we will dedicate the necessary resources to put an end to this type of distribution,” stated DEA’s Kotowski.
 
“As alleged, the defendants made millions of dollars through the illicit online sales of anabolic steroids while operating under the guise of an ‘FDA-compliant’ health and wellness business,” stated United States Attorney Capers. “This case serves as a message that my Office and our law enforcement partners will not allow the widespread illegal distribution of anabolic steroids to go unchecked.” Mr. Capers expressed his appreciation to the DEA Arizona Division, DEA Miami Division, Homeland Security Investigations New Jersey Division, Customs and Border Patrol New Jersey Division, and U.S. Postal Service Inspection Service New Jersey Division for their assistance during the course of this year-long investigation.

The Defendants:
RICHARD RODRIGUEZ
Age: 37
Miami, Florida
JOHN FERRELL
Age: 36
Miami, Florida
NANCY MELO-RODRIGUEZ
Age: 39
Miami, Florida3
EDWARD JACOB LIFF
Age: 34
Phoenix, Arizona
XZAVIER APODACA
Age: 30
Phoenix, Arizona
BYRON OLIVER
Age: 37
Phoenix, Arizona
ERICK VITTITOW
Age: 29
Miami, Florida
BADER ALASKARI
Age: 34
North Bay Village, Florida
BERNARD DURAN
Age: 43
Miramar, Florida
JONATHAN GONZALEZ
Age: 37
Miami, Florida  


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