Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
The customer called herself Julie, and all she said she wanted was to be rid of her wrinkles. On the phone, she could have been any other South Floridian trying to beat the effects of the sun and aging.
She found a sympathetic ear when she dialed PowerMedica, a Deerfield Beach pharmacy. When a sales representative heard her story, he told her to get a blood test and stop by.
The woman found plenty of what she was looking for: human growth hormones and anabolic steroids, both controlled substances whose sales are illegal without a prescription. By then, investigators say, PowerMedica had hooked up thousands of customers with prescriptions without requiring them to see a doctor.
Julie was different from the rest. This customer was an undercover federal agent.
It wasn't long before the federal Food and Drug Administration shut down the business. During a February raid, FDA agents seized PowerMedica's customer files. Authorities now allege that many South Florida police officers, including 13 at the West Palm Beach Police Department, were among the steroid-buying clients.
The ongoing federal probe has prompted at least five South Florida law enforcement agencies to investigate their own officers. No one has been charged criminally.
FDA officials wondered whether they should notify the police agencies of their officers' purchases. They hesitated at first, because doing so would reveal information from an open criminal investigation.
There was cause for concern, though. Illegal use of steroids, which can raise a user's testosterone levels dramatically, has been blamed for abuse by overly aggressive law enforcement officers.
They decided, as a matter of public safety, to notify local departments. The list included the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office, Broward Sheriff's Office, Delray Beach Police Department and Miami-Dade Police Department.