A woman helped her former live-in fiance reap $250,000 a year selling anabolic steroids, officials say - a crime that will cost her several years behind bars, a Warren County judge ruled.
Jessica Howard, 27, was sentenced to five years in prison - the longest sentence of any defendant in the steroid-distribution ring that officials busted in November, Assistant Prosecutor Andy Sievers said Monday. But Howard's actual sentence could be reduced if she finishes certain programs under the order of Judge James Flannery, Sievers said.
Howard, who last lived in Alexandria and formerly lived in Sycamore Township, was convicted of two felony counts of trafficking in drugs and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity. "Howard assisted in distributing large amounts of anabolic steroids to undercover agents as well as many other individuals, from June 2010 through July 2011," a news release from the Warren County Prosecutor's Office said.
Howard and her former fiance, Matt Geraci, are considered among the major players in a steroid-distribution network that ranged from Tennessee to Ohio, Sievers said. He noted two other significant players have already been sentenced: Kenneth Freeman, 43, of Tennessee, who got a four-year prison term; and professional wrestler Kris "Chris Carnage" Sheid, 32, of Hamilton, who was sentenced to three years in prison.
Geraci, who testified against Howard during her jury trial in March, is set for his own trial June 14 unless he gets a plea deal.
The ring's alleged "kingpin," Ronald Herbort, 45, of Amelia, is set for trial April 30.
Among at least two dozen suspects prosecuted in Warren County after the bust, many of the lower-level drug sellers have already pleaded and have been sentenced to probation or a couple months in jail, Sievers said.
Here's how authorities allege the steroid ring worked:
Herbort bought products from a Tennessee lab that imported steroid powder from China, mixed it with olive oil and packaged it in vials for distribution. Each vial cost about $25 to make; customers were charged $85 to $125 per vial.
Herbort's alleged No. 2 man, Geraci, fielded orders for steroids via text message, and then stocked the supply in 18 lockers at a Blue Ash office complex. Each locker was assigned to a distributor-customer. Locker-holders would pick up the steroid supply, replace it with payment, re-lock the locker and alert Geraci via text.
In total, 11 agencies investigated the ring in "Operation Bulk-Up," a probe that began with a tip from the Lebanon YMCA in January 2010. No sales happened inside the Y, but Y officials reported hearing about propositions for steroid sales. The report led to an investigation that produced indictments against 33 people, including some suspects who were unconnected to the alleged Herbort ring.