Business Co-Owners Plead Guilty In Steroid Probe
Wednesday, April 25th 2007, 7:29 pm
By: News On 6
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) _ Two owners of a Florida business that prospected for steroid customers on the Internet, producing about $5 million in annual revenue, pleaded guilty Wednesday to drug charges in a New York court.
Greg Trotta, 38, and Brian Schafler, 34, both of Delray Beach, Fla., agreed to testify against others in the multistate investigation by Albany County prosecutors in return for sentences of five years' probation. Each pleaded guilty to felony third-degree diversion of prescription medications and prescriptions, admitting they helped get drugs in 2006 for customers in upstate New York who had no medical need for them.
``I would actually put the order in,'' Schafler said in court.
He said he talked with customers, then had them talk by phone with Dr. Gary Brandwein, another owner of MedXLife.com, who signed and sent prescriptions, which were filled by Signature Pharmacy of Orlando.
``They paid for hits on Yahoo and other search engines,'' Assistant District Attorney Christopher Baynes said. Internet users who searched the word ``steroids'' would pull up MedXLife's Web site ahead of others, he said.
In business for about three years, the company was selling steroids, human growth hormone and testosterone, and it was the second biggest producer for Signature, Baynes said.
``They did $5 million dollars a year in business,'' he said.
The Web site says MedXLife is currently unable to complete patient orders, not taking new patients or refilling prescriptions.
In New York, it is illegal for a doctor to prescribe drugs without examining the patient in person, and illegal for a pharmacy to dispense prescription drugs without a valid prescription. Both Trotta and Schafler said Brandwein didn't see the patients.
Brandwein of Boca Raton, Fla., a 44-year-old osteopath, has pleaded not guilty to six counts in Albany County Court related to the criminal sale of a controlled substance. Four owners and employees of Signature, which is at the center of the investigation, also have pleaded not guilty to multiple charges.
Charges are pending against seven others. Five other people from Texas, Florida and New York, including two former physicians, have pleaded guilty.
Trotta and Schafler agreed to forfeit $10,000 each. District Attorney P. David Soares said that restitution will exceed the investigation's expenses so far.
Prosecutors say they targeted distributors, not customers, who reportedly included several professional athletes.