Follow CBSMIAMI.COM: Facebook | Twitter
MIAMI (CBSMiami) — A multi-state investigation into an alleged steroid distribution ring has netted nine people, including some in South Florida.
Tuesday morning DEA agents raided a Miami gym called Iron Addicts saying it was a shipping facility for the steroid ring. They also raided a lab in Phoenix, Arizona.
The nine people, seven of which are from South Florida, are charged with operating an international steroid manufacturing and distribution ring. One other person is being sought after in Arizona.
The charges stem from an undercover investigation into the Miami-based company Wellness Fitness Nutrition, or WFN, according to court documents.
The company’s founder and CEO, Richard Rodriguez, alleged that WFN was compliant with FDA regulations and licensed to distribute anabolic steroids which are considered a controlled substance. During the investigation, they found out that WFN was not licensed by the DEA to distribute steroids to customers without medical prescriptions and sold it through its website, according to court documents.
Josh Burkman is a UFC fighter who trains in the same building and was there when the feds arrived.
“They kicked the doors in. The SWAT team came in and woke us up and said, “Hey. Get up and get out of here,'” said Burkman.
The news came as a surprise to gym members like Connie Hauk who trains for bodybuilding competitions.
“Everyone kept telling me about this gym and I was so excited to come here,” said Hauk.
Gym members watched as federal agents and workers removed gym equipment from the facility throughout the day. The gym is reportedly well known in the bodybuilding community and attracts people from around the world making the raid even tougher to handle.
DEA agents said they were able to track down the purchase of the raw steroid materials bought by WFN from various companies in China. From there, the raw steroid powder would be shipped to a secret lab in Phoenix, Arizona to be manufactured and later to Miami where it was labeled, packaged and shipped to customers, investigators said.
Agents were able to buy over $30,000 worth of anabolic steroids from WFN, court documents state.
The company also allegedly laundered over a million dollars made from sales of the steroids that was re-invested back into the operation.
At least $10 million was moved in illicit proceeds to various bank accounts connected to WFN, according to investigators.
Out of the 10 arrested, seven are from South Florida including Richard Rodriguez, John Ferrell, Nancy Melo-Rodriguez, Erick Vittitow, Bader Alaskari, Bernard Duran and Jonathan Gonzalez. They were arraigned at a federal courthouse in Miami on Tuesday.
If the people arrested Wednesday are convicted of the steroid distribution and money laundering charges, they face a maximum of 20 years in prison.