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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Nine Defendants Arrested For Operating An International Steroid Distribution Ring

Complaint Charges Defendants with Distribution of Steroids and Money Laundering

A complaint was unsealed yesterday in the United States District Court in Brooklyn charging ten defendants with operating an international steroid manufacturing and distribution ring. Seven defendants will be arraigned today at the United States Courthouse in Miami, Florida. Two defendants will be arraigned at the United States Courthouse in Phoenix, Arizona, and one remaining defendant is being sought in Phoenix.

The charges were announced by Robert L. Capers, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Carl J. Kotowski, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), New Jersey Division.

As set forth in the complaint and other publicly filed documents, 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 ten million dollars in illicit proceeds through various WFN and related entities’ bank accounts.

Today, in connection with the arrests, 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.

“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 Protection Port of New York/Newark, and U.S. Postal Service Inspection Service New Jersey Division for their assistance during the course of this year-long investigation.

“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 Special Agent in Charge Kotowski.

The charges in the complaint are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted of the offense, the defendants face a maximum sentence of twenty years’ imprisonment.

The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Michael T. Keilty and Kaitlin T. Farrell. Assistant United States Attorney Claire Kedeshian of the Office’s Civil Division is responsible for the seizure and forfeiture of assets.

The Defendants:
 

RICHARD RODRIGUEZ

Age: 37

Miami, Florida

 

JOHN FERRELL

Age: 36

Miami, Florida

 

NANCY MELO-RODRIGUEZ

Age: 39

Miami, Florida
 

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

 

 

E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 17-MJ-154

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Updated February 22, 2017