Former ‘Officer of the Year’ goes to prison for selling steroids

LEBANON —

A former lieutenant and “Officer of the Year” at Lebanon Correctional Institution is now behind bars.

Brian M. Bendel, 43, of Somerville in Preble County, was sentenced to four years in prison today in Warren County Common Pleas Court for possessing and selling anabolic steroids outside prison walls.

Last month, Bendel pleaded guilty to three felony counts of trafficking in drugs and two counts of possession of drugs as part of a plea deal. Bendel, who faced a total of 21 counts, had the remainder of the charges against him dismissed.

When he entered his plea, Judge Daniel Flannery told Bendel to be prepared to go to prison when he returned for sentencing. Today, Flannery made good on his word.

The judge also ordered Bendel to pay $22,000 in fines and be place on three years community control when released from prison.

Bendel was caught with vials of “Masteron 100,” “Sustanon 250,” and Testosterone 17-Phenlyproprionate on March 26 in the parking lot of a Middletown restaurant on Towne Boulevard, according to court documents. Drugs were also found at his Roberts Road residence.

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About 25 of Bendel’s friends and family crowded into the courtroom for the sentencing. Three spoke on his behalf.

Anthony G. Conn, 41, of Miamisburg, also a former prison lieutenant, is scheduled to be sentence March 21 on drug charges, including drug trafficking, manufacturing and using anabolic steroids as well as child endangerment.

Conn sold drugs in various locations throughout Warren County, including the Powder Keg Harley-Davidson in Deerfield Twp., from 2012 to 2013. He also pleaded guilty to manufacturing and possessing steroids while his daughter, a minor, was present.

Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell said Conn ordered drug ingredients from China and assembled the drugs.

Conn and Bendel were arrested and indicted in September on 70 criminal charges.

The Warren County Drug Task Force conducted a nine-month investigation into illegal steroid use, distribution and manufacture among staff at the close-security state prison.

Prosecutors said Conn ordered raw materials from China, assembled the drugs in his home — sometimes in the vicinity of a juvenile — and then both used the steroids and sold them. Bendel was both a user and a seller of Conn’s products.

Anabolic steroids are performance-enhancing drugs sometimes used in body building, which can increase muscle mass and strength. They are considered dangerous drugs under state law and can have harmful side effects.

The case started with a tip to the Warren County Drug Task Force, which worked in concert with the Ohio Highway Patrol and the Lebanon Correctional Institution. As the investigation progressed, a sting operation caught Conn and Bendel actively trafficking the drugs, Fornshell said.

Conn and Bendel each abruptly resigned from their state prison jobs in April without giving notice. Both men started working in the prison system in 1994 and had received positive performance reviews. Bendel was named the prison’s Officer of the Year in 2002 for thwarting a drug-smuggling attempt.

The prison, which opened in 1960, employs 526 and houses 2,602 inmates, mostly in close security, one step down from maximum security.

Conn earned $56,000 last year, according to state payroll records, and Bendel made $55,600.

Fornshell and Drug Task Force Commander John Burke noted they do not believe the drugs got into the hands of high school athletes.

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