A man who admitted working as a black market chemist at a garage lab in his suburban home pleaded guilty Thursday to being the main supplier of banned performance-enhancing substances in Major League Baseball's most recent steroid scandal.
Paulo Berejuk, a 51-year-old Brazilian citizen with permanent U.S. residency, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute testosterone. Investigators said Berejuk was the key source of the substance for Anthony Bosch, who ran the now-closed Biogenesis of America clinic that provided steroids to MLB players and other athletes.
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Berejuk faces a reduced prison sentence of between two and three years because he agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, but he also could be deported back to Brazil after prison. In addition, Berejuk agreed to forfeit to the government a 32-foot Intrepid boat.
Defense attorney Robert Barrar said Berejuk has been helping prosecutors build cases against others charged in the probe for months and wanted to immediately take responsibility for his role.
"I believe in my heart this is what he wants to do because he recognizes he was wrong," Barrar told U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga.
Berejuk admitted in a court document that between 2007 and 2013 he supplied between 5,000 and 10,000 units of banned steroids to Bosch and others involved in the conspiracy, including the owner of another clinic, Jorge Velazquez. Berejuk was paid up to $20,000 a month for his work.
The doping scandal resulted in suspensions last year for 14 MLB players, including a season-long suspension handed to New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez. According to court documents, Rodriguez admitted using steroids supplied by Bosch during an interview with U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents.
Several other people have already pleaded guilty, including Bosch and Velazquez. Another defendant, Juan Carlos Nunez, is scheduled to plead guilty Friday. Still awaiting trial are Rodriguez's cousin, Yuri Sucart, and former University of Miami pitching coach Lazaro "Laser" Collazo.
After Sucart has asked for a two-month delay in the scheduled Feb. 9 trial because of serious health problems, Altonaga on Thursday pushed it back to April 6.
Altonaga also agreed to release Berejuk on $150,000 bail until his Feb. 25 sentencing date, largely because he agreed to cooperate and will surrender his passport. Another judge had ordered Berejuk kept in custody because there was a risk he may flee and was a danger to the community because he was concocting the drugs in his home.
But Altonaga said she was satisfied he will not flee and mentioned the upcoming Christmas holiday as another reason to release him.
"I will give Mr. Berejuk time to enjoy his family before he is sentenced," she said.
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