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US charges 10 in steroid ring linked to Miami gym operator

MIAMI (AP) — Ten people have been charged with operating a $10 million steroid distribution ring allegedly overseen by a Miami man who co-owns a popular bodybuilding gym called Iron Addicts, federal authorities said Wednesday.

Prosecutors in Brooklyn, New York, announced steroid distribution and money laundering charges against 37-year-old Richard Rodriguez of Miami and nine others, seven of whom live in South Florida and have been arrested. Two were arrested in Phoenix, Arizona, and one suspect remained at large.

Court records show Rodriguez runs a company called Wellness Fitness Nutrition LLC and the Iron Addicts Gym at the same Miami location, which was raided early Wednesday the Drug Enforcement Administration agents and U.S. Marshals. The case is being investigated chiefly by a DEA task force based out of its office in Newark, New Jersey.

“The results of this investigation send a clear message to the public: it doesn’t matter if you are peddling heroin, cocaine or steroids,” said Charles Kotowski, DEA chief in Newark, in a statement. “If you break the law, we will dedicate the necessary resources to put an end to this type of distribution.”

Authorities say the company obtained steroid raw materials from China and had them sent to a lab in Phoenix called Desert Formulations. There, steroid pills and liquid were manufactured, then sent to Miami and shipped from there to customers in the U.S. and foreign countries, according to a DEA affidavit.

Company records show WFN made at least $10 million over a two-year period through the steroid sales, the affidavit says. It added that the investigation included purchases of more than $30,000 in illicit steroids by undercover U.S. agents and involved a confidential informant who formerly worked at the company.

Other evidence includes recordings from telephone wiretaps and steroid materials retrieved from trash bins outside the Arizona lab, according to the DEA.

Court records in Miami did not immediately list an attorney for Rodriguez, who was arrested early Wednesday and was scheduled later that day to have an initial court appearance. Eventually, he and the other Miami and Arizona suspects would go to Brooklyn for trial or other court proceedings.

A Marshals “no trespassing” sign was posted Wednesday on the gym’s front door. It has long been known for attracting bodybuilders from around the world.

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Follow Curt Anderson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Miamicurt

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