MIAMI — A chemist working out of his suburban South Florida garage was sentenced Wednesday to 18 months in prison for supplying banned performance-enhancing substances to a clinic whose customers included professional baseball players such as New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez.
Paulo Berejuk had hoped for probation and home confinement after pleading guilty in December to conspiracy to distribute testosterone. But U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga agreed with prosecutors that Berejuk's role in the case was too vital and his cooperation with investigators too limited to warrant such a sentencing break.
"I cannot in good faith sentence Mr. Berejuk to probation," Altonaga said at a hearing. "This involved a serious crime. I have to consider deterrence to others."
Investigators said Berejuk was the key drug source for Anthony Bosch, who ran the now-closed Biogenesis of America clinic in Coral Gables that sold steroids to baseball players and other athletes, some only in high school. Berejuk admitted in court documents that between 2007 and 2013 he supplied up to 10,000 units of steroids to Bosch and others for as much as $20,000 a month.
"This defendant is one of the most important people in the conspiracy," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Sharad Motiani.
The doping scandal resulted in suspensions last year for 14 professional baseball players and criminal convictions for Bosch and others. Rodriguez, who got the stiffest Major League Baseball suspension at a full season, recently apologized to Yankee fans in a written statement and previously admitted in interviews with U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents that he used Bosch-supplied steroids.
Rodriguez also would be a key government witness if the remaining two people charged in the case — Rodriguez cousin Yuri Sucart and former University of Miami baseball coach Lazaro Collazo — go to trial as scheduled April 6. Both have pleaded not guilty to drug conspiracy charges.
Berejuk, 51, apologized in court for his actions but said he took full responsibility. Berejuk faces possible deportation to his native Brazil after serving his prison sentence.
"I really regret what I did, but no excuses. I recognize when I'm wrong," he said.