WASHINGTON — The federal government, cracking down on an estimated $100-million annual black market business in muscle-building drugs, Thursday announced two indictments resulting from a year-long task force investigation.
Officials from the Justice Department, the FBI and the Food and Drug Administration told a news conference that they have conducted 13 searches in six states, including California, seizing $2-million worth of prescription steroids and hormones.
In addition to the indictments of three men, four other persons and a corporation have pleaded guilty to various charges and waived court hearings, the officials said, adding that more indictments are coming.
Would Intensify Pressure
"The first major step has been taken," said Daniel L. Michels, director of the Food and Drug Administration's Office of Compliance in the Center for Drugs and Biologics. "We intend to keep up the pressure."
The illegal use of steroids to enhance strength usually is associated with football players, weight lifters and others in "power sports." But one official said that the problem "goes right down to the locker room of your local spa."
Using the prescription drugs without a doctor's supervision constitutes "a serious public health problem," Michels said, because of such possible side effects as liver cancer, prostate cancer, inhibition of testicular function and "irreversible masculinization" in women.
To combat what officials say is a massive underground distribution network, the agencies joined forces last May, cooperating with local law enforcement officials in New Jersey, Texas, Florida, Ohio and Michigan, as well as California.
Focus on Heavy Traffickers
While the officials asserted that illegal use was widespread, Assistant Atty. Gen. Richard K. Willard said the government will continue to focus on big-time traffickers instead of on users.
The first indictment was returned last week in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., against James Bradshaw of Los Angeles. The other was returned Wednesday in Dallas against two Texans, Cecil C. Kennedy of Bonham and James R. Haga of Holton City.
The 23-count indictment against Bradshaw charges that he misbranded and sold human and animal steroids without prescriptions. The indictment says he did business under these names: James Pharmaceuticals, Nautical Systems, Elite Enterprises, RICO, Mail Answer, JAB Inc., JBA, Jim Bradshaw and JBA Inc. If convicted, Bradshaw faces a maximum $250,000 fine and a prison term of three years on each count.
Sent 'Drug Alert' Letters
Kennedy and Haga, indicted on 18 counts, are charged with conspiring to sell $1 million worth of steroids and hormones under the business names Center Prescription Services or Center RX Sales (Center Sales). They face a maximum penalty of five years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine if convicted on conspiracy charges and additional penalties if convicted on misbranding charges.
As part of the crackdown, Michels has sent "drug alert" letters to 75 of the nation's largest drug manufacturers and distributors, asking them to notify authorities of any large or frequent orders for steroids that normally are low volume and for veterinary drugs ordered by customers not normally in that trade.