Some pumped-up police officers in Maryland have gotten a little illegal help with those biceps from the pill bottle, federal authorities said yesterday.
An undisclosed number of officers were patients of a Dundalk physician who has pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Baltimore to illegally distributing steroids to body builders.
George Hebeka, 61, who entered his plea Wednesday before Judge Benson E. Legg, admitted that he made at least $200,000 by prescribing steroids to patients for nonmedical purposes.
"It had gotten around the gyms that people could get steroids from this doctor," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Lisa M. Griffin. "They would come into an office and sign their name on a paper. He'd see them, accept their money and give them steroids."
Ms. Griffin said Hebeka did not examine his patients and did not provide any follow-up treatment.
FBI Special Agent Roberta N. Parker said "a number of police officers" were among Hebeka's 250 patients between February 1991 and August 1992. She would not say how many officers were involved or where they work.
Agent Parker said information on the officers has been turned over to their respective departments' internal investigation units for possible administrative action against them. They will not face federal charges.
Hebeka pleaded guilty to one federal count of distributing steroids. Sentencing was set for April 30.
Hebeka faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He has consented in
a plea agreement to surrender $289,000 in cash that investigators seized from his home last August.
In September, the Maryland Board of Physician Quality Assurance indefinitely suspended his license to practice medicine. The license is subject to being revoked under state rules.
Steroids are prescribed for specific physical conditions, including swelling of the extremities, kidney problems and cases of starvation. Body builders and athletes have used them illegally to enhance performance.
Anabolic steroids are synthetic derivatives of the male hormone testosterone. Both men and women produce testosterone in their bodies.
Court papers said that some of Hebeka's patients have suffered side effects from steroid use, including liver disease, testicular atrophy, cysts in the neck and breasts, violent behavior, renal stones, skin disease, hair loss and impaired sexual functioning.
He was investigated by the FBI, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Baltimore County Police and Maryland State Police.
According to a statement of facts, the FBI first learned about Hebeka from a convicted steroid distributor in early 1987. The FBI began an investigation after the information was supported by other sources.
From November 1991 to July 1992, two government witnesses and two undercover police officers visited the doctor's office a total of nine times, the statement said.
They asked for steroids to help them improve their body building and weight lifting. Each time, investigators paid Hebeka $25 and received prescriptions for the steroid Halotestin.
Agents uncovered detailed patient files during a search of Hebeka's home and office on Aug. 1, 1992. The records showed that between February 1991 and August 1992, he prescribed 20,460 tablets of Halotestin, 480 tablets of the steroid Methyltestosterone and 1,514 injections of testosterone.
Records showed that he had been prescribing similar numbers of steroids at least since 1988.
"We've seen files even older than that," Agent Parker said. "Some date back to the 70s and 80s."
She said a small number of women bought illegal prescriptions from Hebeka, but that most of the patients were male body builders and weight lifters.
According to court papers, three Maryland pharmacists complained to police about Hebeka's illegal distribution of steroids and told him that they would no longer honor his prescriptions for steroids.
Ms. Griffin said Hebeka owes the Internal Revenue Service, and that $89,000 of the money seized will go toward paying his federal tax debt.