A troubled dentist who pleaded guilty Friday to illegal distribution of steroids and human growth hormone had issued prescriptions for performance-enhancing drugs to clients that included the founder of Orange County Choppers and at least fourÂ Major League BaseballÂ players, business recordsÂ show.
The case, prosecuted in South Florida, has ties to a steroids-distribution investigation launched four years ago in Albany. It also provides insight into the darker side of a pipeline that authorities say illegally provided performance-enhancing drugs to thousands of people, including professional athletes andÂ celebrities.
Pharmacy law experts have cast the system as a perversion of medical regulations that allowed nearly anyone with a credit card to order steroids. The illegitimate nature of the business may be best illustrated in the case ofÂ James M. D’Amico, a dentist from Cape Coral, Fla., who had a revoked dental license when he was prescribing powerful drugs to patients he’d never met, including proÂ athletes.
D’Amico’s clientele was far-reaching and includedÂ Paul TeutulÂ Sr., the muscular and fiery-tempered star of theÂ Discovery Channel‘s popular reality television series, “American Chopper,” according to business records. The records indicate Teutul, 61, founder of Orange County Choppers in Newburgh, received dozens of prescriptions for steroids and human growth hormone authorized by D’Amico and three Florida physicians over a four-year period ending inÂ 2005.
Records show D’Amico’s prescriptions to Teutul were processed by Orlando’s Signature Compounding Pharmacy, whose operators remain under felony indictment in Albany.Â Robert G. Carlson, a Sarasota, Fla., physician who pleaded guilty in Albany three years ago to insurance fraud for his role in that case, also prescribed drugs to Teutul through Signature, recordsÂ show.
Last Monday, a person who identified himself as Teutul answered the cellular telephone for a number listed for him in the business records. He asked a reporter how he got the number and then declined to answer questions, referring the call toÂ Steve Moreau, whom he identified as a manager at Orange CountyÂ Choppers.
“Honestly, really, I couldn’t do this even if it was about chewing bubble gum,” Teutul said in response to questions about steroids and D’Amico. “Everything has procedure. Call theÂ shop.”
Moreau did not respond to requests forÂ comment.
D’Amico, 58, whose lawyers had claimed is insane, posed as a doctor and signed prescriptions for two years after his Florida dentistry license was revoked inÂ 2003.
Still, D’Amico’s prescriptions were honored by at least two Florida pharmacies, including Signature. A second pharmacy, PowerMedica of Deerfield Beach, paid D’Amico thousands of dollars to write prescriptions. D’Amico’s dealings with PowerMedica were the focus of his federal criminalÂ case.
Debra B. Feinberg, executive director of theÂ New York State Council of Health-System Pharmacists, said the Florida pharmacies were obligated to verify D’Amico’sÂ credentials.
“That’s federal, it doesn’t matter what state you practice in,” said Feinberg, who has a law degree and teaches pharmaceutical jurisprudence atÂ Albany College of Pharmacy.
“I don’t know of a legitimate use for steroids in dental practice,” sheÂ added.
Other “patients” of D’Amico included former major league pitcherÂ Paul Byrd, outfielderÂ Jose GuillenÂ and former five-time All Star third basemanÂ Matt Williams, all of whom received performance-enhancing drugs, including human growth hormone, through prescriptions approved by D’Amico, according to businessÂ records.
The baseball players’ receipt of the drugs was first disclosed in a series of articles by theÂ San Francisco ChronicleÂ in November 2007. TheÂ Times UnionÂ assisted in the reporting; both newspapers are owned by the Hearst Corporation. D’Amico was not identified in theÂ stories.
The records show Byrd, who has since retired and lives in Georgia, received his final shipment of growth hormone just before Major League Baseball banned its use in lateÂ 2005.
Byrd’s case further exposed a pipeline that law enforcement officials said was funneling performance-enhancing drugs to customers across the country while enriching pharmacy operators, complicit doctors and the anti-aging clinics that garnered many customers through theÂ Internet.
Records show D’Amico wrote prescriptions for Teutul and the baseball athletes after his DEA registration expired in June 2003 and he was no longer authorized to prescribe controlledÂ substances.
The business records also identify journeyman pitcherÂ Ismael ValdezÂ as having purchased $11,300 worth of performance-enhancing drugs in 2002, which included prescriptions written by D’Amico.
Pre-trial motions in D’Amico’s case focused on his mental condition. Last month, D’Amico’s attorneys asked permission to invoke an insanity defense after a federal judge ruled he is competent to standÂ trial.
“The current working diagnosis with Dr. D’Amico is bipolar disorder along with co-morbid substance abuse complicated by borderline personality disorder,” Lado said. “This toxic combination is perhaps one of many reasons for poor judgment and impulsive decisions and unfortunately was never treatedÂ correctly.”
PowerMedica shut down in June 2005 after it became the target of a federal investigation. The pharmacy’s clients included dozens of police officers and firefighters.Â Daniel Dailey, PowerMedica’s owner, pleaded guilty to federal drug charges and was sentenced last August to 46 months inÂ prison.
A 77-year-old New York doctor, Manuel Sanguily of Tarrytown, pleaded guilty last May to writing more than 2,000 blind prescriptions to PowerMedica customers. Sanguily, a former Cuban Olympic swimmer, is scheduled to begin a 30-month prison term on MarchÂ 1.
It’s unclear whether D’Amico’s patients, including professional athletes, knew of his problems when he was approving their purchase of steroids and human growthÂ hormone.
D’Amico’s spotted record includes the loss of his medical credentials for patient neglect and fraud and a conviction for cocaine possession, recordsÂ show.
When he was on the payroll of two Florida anti-aging clinics, including Palm Beach Rejuvenation in Jupiter, Fla., most clients never met D’Amico.
“Prospective customers contacted PowerMedica either by telephone or through the website and communicated with PowerMedica salepersons, many of whom had no medical background or training,” D’Amico’s indictment states. “The unlicensed doctors, including (D’Amico), signed the drug orders without ever meeting with, talking to, conducting physical examinations of, or diagnosing theÂ customers.”
PowerMedica wasn’t the only anti-aging clinic that put D’Amico on itsÂ payroll.
Business records show Teutul, whose spirited personality and bulging biceps helped elevate his celebrity status on “American Chopper,” received prescriptions authorized by D’Amico through the now-closed Palm Beach Rejuvenation, whose owners pleaded guilty three years ago in Albany to drug distributionÂ charges.
Teutul received 73 prescriptions at a cost of $51,784.78 between Aug. 2, 2002 and Oct. 3, 2006, the records show. The orders list Teutul’s date of birth, Social Security number, telephone numbers, and three addresses tied to him through public records, including an address at 10 Factory Rd. in the town of Montgomery, Orange County. Teutul’s motorcycle factory was previously headquartered on FactoryÂ Road.
D’Amico was indicted last March by a federal grand jury in West Palm Beach. He abruptly pleaded guilty Friday to three felony counts of illegal distribution of human growth hormone and steroids, and lying to a federal grand jury. The plea took place two days after prosecutors sought an arrest warrant when D’Amico failed to appear at a pre-trialÂ conference.
He faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million at his sentencing scheduled for AprilÂ 22.
Signature’s former operators remain under felony indictment in Albany County. They have pleaded not guilty to enterprise corruption and felony drug charges in a case twice dismissed by an Albany judge. The case remains pending on appeal. William J. Dreyer, an Albany attorney for the pharmacy’s operators, declinedÂ comment.
Human growth hormone is approved by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to treat dwarfism in children and people with AIDS wasting disease or growth hormone deficiency. It is illegal to possess or distribute human growth hormone for any otherÂ uses.
Orlando’s Signature Compounding Pharmacy, which shipped human growth hormone and steroids to customers across the country, shut down four years ago after a law enforcement raid that included Albany CountyÂ prosecutors.
The pharmacy was subsequently targeted in an administrative complaint filed by the Florida Department of Health 18 months ago. The complaint alleges the pharmacy improperly distributed wholesale amounts of human growth hormone to a physician at a Florida weight-lossÂ clinic.
A spokesperson for the Florida agency said the case isÂ pending.
Carlson, a surgeon who also wrote prescriptions for Teutul through Palm Beach Rejuvenation, was disciplined by Florida’s Department of Health after pleading to a felony in the Albany case. He has not been sentenced and agreed toÂ cooperate.
Carlson did not lose his medical license in Florida. He was fined $10,000, received a letter of caution and was ordered to complete 50 hours of communityÂ service.
Another doctor who wrote prescriptions to Teutul was Dr. Glenn Johnston, who worked from an office at Signature pharmacy for several years, according to businessÂ records.