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Details emerge on pharmacy raided for steroids

3/1/2007 - MLB Boxing

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Signature Pharmacy advertised itself as a
cutting-edge drug provider in women's health. Out of a
slick-looking downtown office, the company promised customized
medical solutions enabling patients to live longer and correct
vitamin and hormone deficiencies.

But authorities say Signature was also operating a steroid
production and distribution center that dumped more than $10
million worth of illegal drugs into the state of New York alone.
The case is part of a vast Albany County (N.Y.) district attorney's
probe that has identified athletes as steroid customers and
promises to produce up to two dozen arrests.

Authorities raided two Signature locations in Orlando this week,
hauling away documents and drugs and taking four into custody.
Authorities also searched a third pharmacy in South Florida.

Signature is owned by Robert Stanley Loomis and his wife Naomi,
both registered pharmacists in Florida. Public records show the
husband, along with a brother who is also a pharmacist indicted in
the case, have been involved with medical businesses under numerous
names over more than two decades.

Both the husband and wife had clear pharmaceutical licenses, but
state records show Kenneth Michael Loomis was put on probation,
fined $1,000 and ordered to pay $1,780.88 in administrative costs
after a 1998 arrest for possession of crack cocaine.

All three Loomises, along with an associate described as
Signature's marketing director, were indicted on multiple counts of
enterprise corruption, criminal sale of a controlled substance,
criminal diversion of prescription medications and insurance fraud.

On Thursday all four waived extradition to New York, but asked a
judge to let them post bail and be fitted with tracking devices
so they could turn themselves in.

Orange County Judge Mike Murphy denied the request, but said he
would reconsider if New York authorities did not retrieve them by
March 8. Defense attorneys said their clients learned of the
investigation a month ago and repeatedly offered to surrender, but
Albany County District Attorney P. David Soares' office declined.

"These are not fugitives," the Loomises' attorney Amy Tingley
told the judge. "We can be in Albany by the close of business
today, if you permit us, and turn ourselves in."

Tingley declined to comment specifically on the charges, saying
she has not seen prosecution documents because the indictment is
sealed.

"I'm hopeful we're going to be in Albany soon and see what's
going on," she said.

The Signature case is still evolving, and authorities say
they're not entirely sure how much of the business was legitimate
and how much involved the illegal sale of steroids and human growth
hormone. Since the raid, authorities said, it has become clear that
Signature did at least $40 million in business in the past year.
Originally, authorities had estimated Signature had done about $36
million in business.

It is also not clear how many of the alleged recipients of
Signature drugs were celebrities or athletes. An investigator
knowledgeable about the case confirmed to The Associated Press that
a doctor for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Richard A. Rydze, was
questioned about Signature purchases. The investigator requested
anonymity because the indictments are sealed.

Former Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Jason Grimsley was also
linked to the pharmacy by the Times Union of Albany, which first
disclosed the multistate New York investigation. The paper also
reported, using unnamed sources, that client lists for other
involved pharmacies include Los Angeles Angels outfielder Gary Matthews Jr., former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield and
former baseball star Jose Canseco.

Soares has repeatedly said he was interested only in shutting
down distributors, not prosecuting drug users. He has refused to
publicly name any.

The investigator who requested anonymity said it was difficult
to tell exactly who was buying the drugs, because the identifying
consumer information could've been fake. From the records, though,
the investigator said many orders were apparently sold to
"middle-aged men with money."

The source said Signature seldom dealt directly with its
customers. Instead, the company allegedly sent drugs to consumers
who obtained bogus prescriptions through crooked online or
in-person clinics.

On its Web site, Signature promises customized treatments
evolved "in the timeless search for a true fountain of youth."
The company claims it can concoct prescriptions for everything from
premenstrual syndrome to "male menopause" and vitamin
deficiencies.

The site also features instructions for self-administering drug
injections like testosterone.

Signature's downtown pharmacy lies in the shadow of an Orlando
hospital. A blocky two-story structure built in 2005, it features
executive headquarters, a prescription counter and storefront
selling vitamin and weightlifting supplements. The operation is a
"compounding pharmacy," which means it is able to provide drugs
mixed onsite tailored for a specific patient.

Signature tells customers on its Web site they must submit
paperwork that includes a copy of the prescribing physician's
license and a Drug Enforcement Agency permit. The New York
indictments accuse the company of repeatedly filling prescriptions
for patients the company knew never met with a doctor.

Whoever they were selling to, Robert Loomis and his wife
appeared to be living comfortably. Their address, reported on
arrest documents, is a four-bedroom, two-story home in a posh
Orlando suburb valued at more than $1 million. They also own
another property bought in February 2006 for $1.6 million,
according to Orange County records.

Investigations against Signature are ongoing. Following a DEA
tip, Orlando's Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation had been
looking into the pharmacy with federal authorities for about a
year, narcotics commander Carl Metzger said.

"We're still months away from being in a position perhaps where
New York is now," Metzger said.