11 Plead Innocent In Steroid Ring Arrests

Tuesday, March 6th 2007, 7:57 am
By: News On 6

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) _ Eleven people connected to a Florida pharmacy at the center of a nationwide investigation into the illegal sale of steroids pleaded not guilty Monday

Robert Stanley Loomis and wife Naomi, the owners of Signature Pharmacy in Orlando, Fla., were arrested last Tuesday during a raid in which police confiscated truck loads of drugs and other evidence. Both are registered pharmacists in Florida. Robert Loomis' brother, pharmacist Kenneth Michael Loomis, and Kirk Calvert, Signature's marketing director, also were charged.

The growing case has linked the online drug network to doctors and health care centers in at least three states.

The four are charged with 20 counts each of criminal diversion of prescription medications and prescriptions, criminal sale of a controlled substance and insurance fraud.

Each posted bail of $30,000. All four shuffled into court, dressed in jail jumpsuits, handcuffed and shackled.

``We hope to have them home as soon as we can so they can be with their kids,'' said Dawn Tingley, the Florida lawyer representing the Loomises and Calvert.

Claire Denise Godfrey, a doctor at an anti-aging clinic in Orlando, pleaded not guilty to 10 counts related to the criminal sale of a controlled substance. She posted $20,000 bail.

Godfrey's name was mentioned in an indictment filed two weeks ago in a federal case charging the owner of a New Jersey pharmaceutical company with health care fraud, conspiracy and illegal drug distribution. The documents say Godfrey received a $2,350 payment in August from the pharmacy owner.

Godfrey declined comment Monday.

Later Monday, Gary Brandwein of Boca Raton, Fla., a 44-year-old osteopath and co-owner of the Florida company MedXLife was arraigned on six counts related to the criminal sale of a controlled substance. He pleaded not guilty and posted $10,000 bail.

Brandwein's lawyer, Terence Kindlon, acknowledged the doctor had a business relationship with Signature.

``He's always been a very dedicated and self-sacrificing healer,'' Kindlon said.

MedXLife's other co-owners, Gregory Trotta and Brian Schafler, later pleaded innocent to six counts related to criminal sale of a controlled substance and were released after posting $10,000 bond.

After Brandwein was arraigned, Palm Beach Rejuvenation co-owner Glen Stephanos and his brother, George Stephanos, both of Palm Beach, Fla., entered innocent pleas to a seven-count indictment charging them with illegally selling steroids and hormones. A doctor employed by the company, Dr. Robert Carlson of Sarasota, Fla., also was arraigned and pleaded not guilty. All three men posted $1,000 bail.

Carlson's lawyer, Charles Holloman, said he first saw the indictment Monday.

``We're not at war with the district attorney's office,'' Holloman said. ``We're trying to understand what happened ... and trying to restore my client's good name.''

Prosecutors allege the Loomises sold steroids and hormones through ``their affiliate'' MedXLife and through their ``criminal associate'' Palm Beach Rejuvenation.

Albany County District Attorney P. David Soares, who ran the investigation, said Signature filled prescriptions, in some cases from unlicensed doctors, knowing they had not examined patients. His office said at least $250,000 in illegal and controlled substances were sold directly into Albany County, and New York State sales exceeded $10 million.

Soares said investigators set up a front company called Nu-Life Hormone Replacement Therapy in Albany. A state investigator posed as a doctor and offered to write illegal prescriptions for Signature. Soares said one company, Oasis Longevity and Rejuvenation, offered the phony doctor $5,000 a week.

A phone number for Oasis was out of service Monday afternoon.

``We are going to be part of a historic moment here ... we will, in a coordinated effort, shut down major drug distribution centers not only in the state of Florida but in other parts of the country,'' Soares said.

People in three states have been arrested so far and as many as 24 could face felony charges.

Soares has said his focus is on shutting down drug distributors and physicians writing illicit prescriptions instead of buyers.

Major league baseball players Gary Matthews Jr. and Jerry Hairston Jr., former slugger Jose Canseco and former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield reportedly were on a customer list at Applied Pharmacy in Mobile, Ala., one of the two pharmacies raided.

The NFL is looking into reports that a Pittsburgh Steelers doctor, Richard Rydze, was on the customer list of Signature Pharmacy in Florida, whose owners have been indicted by a grand jury in Albany. Records showed Rydze used his personal credit card to buy about $150,000 in testosterone and human growth hormone.