Sources: Plea expected from Galea aide

Updated: June 23, 2010, 2:20 PM ET
By Mike Fish | ESPN.com

Mary Anne Catalano, a key witness in the federal smuggling and steroid distribution involving prominent sports doctor Anthony Galea, is expected to appear Thursday in federal court in Buffalo and enter a plea of providing false information to border agents, sources told ESPN.com.

Catalano, 32, triggered U.S. and Canadian investigations after she was found in possession of a bevy of medical supplies, including human growth hormone and foreign-labeled homeopathic drugs, when stopped last Sept. 14 at the Buffalo border crossing by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. She was initially charged with smuggling goods into the U.S. and released on $10,000 bond.

Catalano's court appearance has been rescheduled at least three times as she's continued to cooperate with authorities in the case against Galea.

Her anticipated guilty plea to the reduced charge relates to her initially having told federal agents the medical supplies were being brought into the U.S. for use by Galea at a conference in Washington. Later, Catalano, a Canadian citizen, told investigators that the drugs were instead to be used by Galea in treating a pro athlete in Washington -- reported by the Washington Post to be wide receiver Santana Moss -- as well as detailing to authorities multiple other trips across the border by Galea to treat elite athletes.

According to documents previously obtained by ESPN, Catalano, Galea's former executive assistant, identified 23 athletes during interviews with authorities whom she said the Toronto-based doctor treated in the U.S. between last July 22 and when she was stopped at the border in September. Catalano said she frequently accompanied Galea and met with athletes in "hotel rooms and their homes" to provide various medical treatments.

Galea is not licensed to practice medicine in the United States, though he has gained notoriety in recent years for having treated well-known athletes such as Alex Rodriguez and Tiger Woods. Galea was charged in U.S. federal court in May with smuggling and related drug offenses. Previously, Canadian authorities filed several charges against him, including selling an unapproved drug [Actovegin], smuggling goods into Canada and conspiracy to export drugs.

Catalano told authorities she witnessed Galea inject a cocktail mixture containing Nutropin [growth hormone] into the injured knees of "at least seven athletes" while in the U.S. There is no approved test to determine HGH use, but the substance is banned by the major professional sports leagues.

Court documents have not identified the players treated by Galea, including those who allegedly were injected with banned substances. Based on court documents ESPN obtained Monday, authorities appear focused on his treatment of professional football players. Among the items seized by Canadian authorities during a search of Galea's office were an "NFL file folder," "Professional Players Journal" and "daytimer with football dates." Also seized was a "CFL [Canadian Football League] folder."

Mike Fish is an investigative reporter for ESPN.

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