DEA Announces Largest Steroid Enforcement Action in U.S. History
SEP 24-- --(LOS ANGELES) - DEA and federal law enforcement officials from the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service today announced the culmination of Operation Raw Deal, an international case targeting the global underground trade of anabolic steroids, human growth hormone (HGH) and insulin growth factor (IGF). In addition, the investigation includes significant enforcement of illicit underground trafficking of ancillary and counterfeit medications. The investigation represents the largest steroid enforcement action in U.S. history and took place in conjunction with enforcement operations in nine countries worldwide. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) also played key roles in the investigation.
143 federal search warrants were executed on targets nationwide, resulting in 124 arrests and the seizure of 56 steroid labs across the United States. In total, 11.4 million steroid dosage units were seized, as well as 242 kilograms of raw steroid powder of Chinese origin. As part of Operation Raw Deal, $6.5 million was also seized, as well as 25 vehicles, 3 boats, 27 pill presses, and 71 weapons.
In Los Angeles County, the DEA, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Torrance Police Department (TPD), and the County of Los Angeles Department of Family and Children Services (LADFCS) executed four search warrants on Luxtech Lab. The search warrants resulted in the seizure of an underground steroid lab, an indoor marijuana grow, a liter of hash oil, two semi automatic rifles, two shot guns, three suspected silencers, several thousand rounds of ammunition, glassware, and approximately $29,000 in assets. The underground steroid lab had approximately six kilograms of raw material, two kilograms of liquid steroids, and sixty vials of clandestinely manufactured steroids, several full vials with the Luxtech Lab label, and hundreds of empty vials with dropper type lids. Two individuals were arrested and charged with the possession of steroids and narcotics for sale, illegal possession of firearms in furtherance of narcotic sales, and child endangerment. An eleven year old minor was living at one of the search warrant locations and had been contaminated by the chemicals found at the underground steroid lab. Investigators also seized a total of fifteen computers that were utilized at the locations in furtherance of steroid trafficking and distribution. The DEA also conducted two consent searches in Los Angeles, CA that resulted in the seizure of another underground steroid lab, 3.64 kilograms of steroids, 1.2 kilograms of raw material, and various glassware and bottles. Based upon intelligence received from the aforementioned operations, another search warrant was executed in Phoenix, AZ. The Phoenix Police Department (PPD) served two search warrants which resulted in the seizure of an underground steroid lab, two hundred vials of steroids, five hundred vials of HGH, three liters of liquid steroids, two thousand tabs of Soma, seven guns, and various glass ware, crimpers and hoses. Two individuals were arrested and charged with manufacture and possession of steroids. All of the aforementioned investigations are ongoing.
“Today, DEA announced the culmination of Operation Raw Deal an international, multi-jurisdictional, multi-agency investigation targeting the illegal manufacturing and trafficking of anabolic steroids and its raw materials,” said Timothy J. Landrum, DEA Special Agent in Charge. “Steroid traffickers market their product to people via the internet and manufacture the steroids in very unsanitary conditions, exposing steroid users to significant health risks and harm. Often times, young children are exposed to large amounts of chemicals in these underground steroid labs, as evidenced by our operations in the Los Angeles area, that is detrimental to their health and well being. Despite the challenges of Internet drug enforcement we will be relentless in targeting steroid manufacturers and traffickers. Through the joint efforts of local, state and federal law enforcement, these steroid trafficking organizations will no longer be able to prey on our communities and damage the youth of America.”
“Those who possess or traffic in illegal weapons pose a danger to our communities and our nation,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge John A. Torres. “By partnering in investigations such as this one, we can bring together our investigative expertise and unique capabilities to attack these criminal operations and safeguard the American people.”
“Steroid abuse by professional athletes not only compromises the integrity of athletic accomplishments, but also threatens the well-being of our nation’s youth who follow in the footsteps of the athletes they idolize.” said Bernard Ferguson, Inspector in Charge of the Los Angeles Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
“The collaboration of law enforcement efforts that led to this week’s arrest sweep and indictments in Operation Raw Deal is a fine example of how law enforcement is united in taking a stand to combat the trafficking of anabolic steroids,” said Debra D. King, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation’s Los Angeles Field Office. “IRS special agents continue to utilize their financial expertise in tracing laundered funds of these sophisticated drug operations, whether at home or abroad, and identify their assets obtained with illegal proceeds.”
Operation Raw Deal is a four-prong strategy focusing on: (1) raw material manufacturers/suppliers in China and other countries; (2) underground anabolic steroid laboratories in the United States, Canada and Mexico; (3) numerous U.S. based websites distributing materials (“conversion kits”) necessary to convert raw steroid powders into finished product; and (4) Internet bodybuilding discussion boards that are the catalyst for individuals to learn how to illicitly use, locate, and discreetly purchase performance enhancing drugs, including anabolic steroids. Many of the underground steroid labs targeted in this case advertise and are endorsed on these message boards.
Operation Raw Deal followed the success of DEA’s Operation Gear Grinder, which culminated in December 2005. Operation Gear Grinder targeted eight of the largest steroid manufacturing companies in the world (all located in Mexico), and created a void in the supply of steroids on the illicit U.S. market. This void in the supply of steroids from Mexico cast further spotlight on the rest of the world, specifically China.
According to federal investigators, worldwide manufacturers of the raw materials needed for steroids use websites to market their products and even provide guidance to potential customers. Steroid Internet message boards and chat rooms also use the latest technology in an effort to keep their business transactions – and those of their customers – anonymous. These websites, chat rooms, and message boards also provide information on how to convert the raw material into finished steroid product and boast of their ability to resist law enforcement scrutiny. In addition, these sites promote and often sell “conversion kits” that are sent to the customer and allows them to convert raw materials into steroids themselves from home.
Besides steroids, many websites targeted also offered other dangerous drugs and chemicals such as ketamine, fentanyl, ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, and GHB.
DEA, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and other federal law enforcement officials collected information on overseas companies who manufacture raw steroid material and do illicit business with customers in the United States and throughout the world. One example is China, where DEA has provided its law enforcement partners there with information on numerous companies who produce and market steroids and their raw materials worldwide. Willing law enforcement partners in China have worked with DEA and other federal agencies on this issue as they prepare to host the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
There is great danger in buying steroids, chemicals, and other illicit products on the Internet. Many companies operating illegally both in the United States and worldwide have no regard for product safety and mislabeling is common – both intentional and unintentional. Products are often misrepresented, and their safety is not at all guaranteed. In addition, federal agents report that many of the underground steroid labs seized in Operation Raw Deal are extremely unsanitary, further illustrating the danger in buying these products illegally. For example, recent lab seizures uncovered huge amounts of raw materials being mixed in bathtubs and bathroom sinks.
Steroid abuse comes with a high price. Potential negative side effects include: headaches, baldness, strokes, blood clots, high blood pressure, heart disease, nausea, bloating, impotence, reduced sperm count, aching joints, aggressive behavior, increased risk of tendon injuries, enlarged prostate, urinary and bowel problems, mood swings, liver damage, breast development, and severe acne. Some young people have even taken their own lives from depression caused by steroid abuse. Professional and amateur athletes worldwide have experienced the shame and embarrassment of steroid abuse. Athletic achievements worldwide are often tainted because there is so much speculation about steroid abuse.
Operation Raw Deal is a Special Operations Division (SOD) supported multi-jurisdictional, multi-agency, Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation. DEA San Diego and DEA New York provided the lead guidance on the case. In addition to the federal agencies mentioned above, other nations and agencies involved in the success of Operation Raw Deal are: Mexico, Canada, China, Belgium, Australia, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and Thailand.
Video B-roll and digital photo stills available at www.dea.gov.