Steroid traffic flows on Internet
02-24-2003 07:48 PM
Steroid traffic flows on Internet
Posted by Bad-Kitty @ FG
Steroid traffic flows on Internet
San Diego a key point for illegal distribution of 'juice'
By David Hasemyer
February 24, 2003
Squirreled away in an old Mercury driven across the border was a cache of illegal steroids destined for points throughout the country.
But the driver, Justin Miller, didn't make it. U.S. Customs Service agents found the stash – $25,000 worth of the muscle-building drugs, according to a summary of Miller's arrest filed in federal court.
The April 2000 border bust led customs agents to search Miller's Linda Vista apartment, where they reported discovering an elaborate network of computers.
The apartment was the command center of an Internet smuggling operation. Agents said they conducted an extensive search of the two-bedroom apartment and concluded Miller and a buddy were cyber dealers.
Like so many cyber generation steroid dealers, they didn't conduct hand-to-hand transactions. They made deals via keyboard.
The Internet is now the leading source of illegal steroid transactions, which federal officials estimate at nearly $1 billion annually. San Diego ranks near the top of distribution points in the United States, accounting for almost one-third of sales.
"Internet steroid dealing is growing exponentially," said Phillip Osborn, national program manager for the cyber crimes unit of the U.S. Customs Service. "With its proximity to the border, San Diego is naturally a key distribution point."
Much like border towns from Texas to California, San Diego is a chief distribution point for illegal commodities from Mexico.
"Steroids are the leading cyber drug trafficking on the Internet," said Larry Latocki, assistant special agent in charge of customs in San Diego. "San Diego is becoming one of the leading ports for the illegal importation of steroids distributed on the Internet."
Federal officials believe Tijuana is the center of Mexico's " 'Roid Corridor," the gateway for the flow of steroids into the black market. The steroids are cheap, plentiful and easy to get across the border.
A Drug Enforcement Administration estimate is that $360 million in steroids crossed the border into San Diego last year.
Anabolic steroids – called "juice" – are used to build muscle quickly and have become a staple of bodybuilders and athletes seeking a competitive edge. Those steroids are generally illegal to sell and possess in the United States without a prescription, yet are easy to obtain.
Experts say these drugs can lead to serious long-term health problems, including liver and kidney damage, heart attacks, strokes, and cancer. Some medical authorities say steroids are becoming a national health crisis, especially among middle school and high school athletes.
Federal officials and medical experts caution that steroids bought on the black market may pose additional dangers because of their poor quality and because some of them are intended for animals.
Going to the source
Before law enforcement priorities shifted to terrorism, investigators at the Customs Service's Cyber Smuggling Center in Virginia developed more than 200 leads linking San Diego with Internet dealers.
Even with less emphasis on halting contraband, customs agents currently have several Internet smuggling operations under investigation in San Diego, said agency spokesman Vince Bond.
There are so many that they are easy targets when agents have the time or the luck on their side.
Miller is a case in point.
He killed time by surfing the Internet and frequenting a Utah gym where he pumped iron with a buddy.
The two friends were novice bodybuilders just out of high school who hung on the fringes of the muscle culture. From that vantage they had a clear view of another culture: steroids.
Miller and his friend, then 22, also were budding entrepreneurs who combined computer savvy with the demand for steroids to launch a black market enterprise, federal authorities believe.
Miller made a few trips from Salt Lake City to Mexico to pick up the steroids. But that is a 13-hour, 750-mile trip.
Then it dawned on them: move to San Diego, where the border is only a few miles away. The two lifelong friends did just that in late 1999, renting a small apartment.
Miller and his companion assumed cyber identities and dived into the world of the Internet, finding comfortable niches in private chat rooms filled with people looking for the juice.
"Without the Internet, it was one guy walking across the border with enough steroids for one gym," Latocki said. "Now with the Internet, that one guy can distribute to 50 gyms."
Miller apparently made contacts with ease, federal officials said in interviews and documents.
In a few months, Miller and his partner had a clientele of nearly 100 people and businesses stretching from New York to Ohio and Texas, according to records filed in federal court. Before he was busted, Miller made seven trips across the border between December 1999 and April 2000, court records say.
Miller, now 24, pleaded guilty Oct. 16, 2000, in federal court to one count of importing liquid steroids and steroid pills. He was sentenced to three years probation. His friend was never charged.
Miller declined to talk about his case, though his mother, Susan Miller of Utah, said, "People get away with worse things. They didn't even have to arrest him."
Susan Miller says her son was mistreated while in custody and that the probation terms are too stiff, considering he cooperated with authorities by turning over his list of clients.
The amount of steroids flowing into the United States from Mexico and other countries cannot be measured, but federal agents say it is staggering.
And little can be done to prevent it.
Federal agents lament that stopping the smuggling of contraband such as steroids is a low priority.
"We just don't have the resources to put a dent in it," Osborn said.
Most cyber dealers enjoy a profit margin estimated by federal officials as high as 80 percent. That means a sale of $100 in steroids nets the dealer a profit of $80.
The Internet also is connecting customers directly with Mexican pharmacies. Increasingly, federal authorities are encountering steroids purchased directly from pharmacies in Mexico, smuggled across the border and shipped throughout the country.
"It's the insatiable demand for steroids that fuels the market, that has led to the Internet becoming the leading means for distribution," said Daryl J. Brooks, a U.S. postal inspector.
One Web site offers "Mexican Pharmacies Guide By E-Mail." Banner ads tout "Pain Meds," "Diet Aids," "Psychotropics" and "Steroids."
Dozens of steroids are listed on the Web site – all of them illegal in the United States. For $14.99, a list of Mexican pharmacies and how to buy from them can be obtained via e-mail.
Hundreds of obliging pharmacies in Tijuana, Ensenada, Rosarito and Mexicali are only a mouse click away. Buyers surf the Internet for a pharmacy, place their orders and wait for the mail.
That is how Jonesboro, Ark., freshman football coach Jason Floyd Gipson obtained steroids valued at thousands of dollars, federal authorities say.
Gipson found Farmacia Speed through the Internet and became a long-distance customer, placing up to 15 orders for steroids at around $6,000 a shipment, federal investigators say.
The investigators said Gipson's deals went like this: He would call the Tijuana pharmacy, get the price for the steroids, and send a money order to a postal box in San Ysidro. The pharmacy's owner, Aaron Beileson, or a member of his family would fill the order, have the steroids smuggled across the border and then send them Express Mail so the package could be tracked.
Beileson's operation was being monitored by U.S. postal inspectors. They watched as a daughter mailed a package to Gipson.
When Gipson was arrested, he told inspectors the steroids were for his friends at a Jonesboro gym. Gipson, 32, pleaded guilty to two counts of possession of drugs and was sentenced in October to probation in Craighead County, Ark. He did not respond to an interview request.
Beileson was sentenced to six months in prison and his ex-wife, Ana Quepons, was sentenced to two months in prison.
Beileson's operation represented only a tiny faction of Internet steroid dealing, frustrating federal officials who say the flow of illegal steroids cannot be stopped.
"When there is such an overwhelming demand for substances like steroids, there will always be a market for it," said Postal Inspector Brooks. "What the Internet has done is made it easier for the consumer and supplier to do business."
02-24-2003 08:56 PM
Good post. Those sentances are suprisingly light for federal drug trafficking charges. Too bad that one dude had to roll over on his clients for 3 year probation
02-24-2003 09:12 PM
I agree with pogue...3 years probation? That's nothing for such a high-volume operation...DUI has a higher penalty than that...
02-24-2003 09:53 PM
Damn one more source i cannot find nor use if i could find him!!!!!!!!!!!!!
02-24-2003 11:03 PM
I agree with you man that is a slap on the wrist. Nice read. Originally posted by Sheesh I agree with pogue...3 years probation? That's nothing for such a high-volume operation...DUI has a higher penalty than that...
02-26-2003 09:13 PM
Good read, and some interesting facts.....
The Internet is definitely the place to get anything you need!
WHO NEEDS SOME CRACK? J/K (don't PM me you crack heads......)
02-27-2003 02:01 AM
what the hell is so wrong with steroids anyways, think about it if they put all out solders on steroids how big they would be no body would want to **** with the US. Like Iraq if we all were on juice they would give up there weapons. I dont see why there so illegal for!
02-27-2003 02:36 AM
The children! Won't someone please think of the children?!
02-28-2003 07:19 PM
I jus cannot believe this bull****! I knew that guy & so glad iam anonymous to them I moved several times sine they got busted & they didnt roll either!
02-28-2003 09:33 PM
Wow, what tiny penalties! To think, I kept looking out the window for the cops when I ordered a months worth of cytomel from overseas.
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