Background info on Operation Roid Runner.

George Koufalis injected himself with $8,000 to $20,000 worth of steroids a year to stay in top condition for bodybuilding competitions, authorities said. Koufalis’ habit led him to start selling the drugs as well, providing a link for investigators between a steroid ring in Dauphin and Cumberland counties, and one here in the Lehigh Valley, according to the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office.

Police allege the breakup of a ring near Harrisburg led them to Koufalis, who in turn led them to Marcus Lazaro, Chad Gillespie and John Sassaman. Lazaro then led police to Christopher Niemczyk, authorities said. All of the men told police and a grand jury they used the drugs and turned to selling them to fuel both their use and pay for various bodybuilding competitions.

They were each released on $25,000 unsecured bail.

Lazaro and Gillespie went as far as purchasing bulk quantities of steroid powder from China, then mixing the powder with oils and alcohol to form liquids that users injected into their muscles, state prosecutors said. They allegedly branded the resulting product “Pro Lab.”

In 2008, state agents raided Koufalis’ home in Lower Macungie Township after he allegedly sold steroids to an informant from Harrisburg. Agents seized $12,459 cash, four guns, 900 pills and assorted paraphernalia.

Koufalis turned informant and set up buys with his suppliers: Sassaman, Gillespie and Lazaro. At the time of the raid, Koufalis owed Lazaro $6,700 for steroids.

Agents arranged for Koufalis to buy numerous times from his suppliers in the parking lot of the Gold’s Gym at South Mall on Lehigh Street in Allentown and elsewhere, such as a restaurant on Lehigh Street.

Koufalis testified, according to court papers, that Sassaman gave him $5,000 in steroids in the Dieruff High School parking lot May 17, 2008 — the date of a bodybuilding competition held at the school.

Agents raided Lazaro’s Freemansburg home Jan. 13 and seized 9 pounds of liquid and powder steroids, $8,894 cash, a 9mm handgun, syringes, vials, oils and other assorted paraphernalia.

Lazaro started using steroids in college, but he and Gillespie had a hard time locating drugs at some point and turned to the Internet as a source. Gillespie is said to have marketed the steroids and Lazaro ordered the bulk materials.

The orders were paid via Western Union wire transfers in amounts small enough to not require a transaction report, usually less than $3,000.

Lazaro also bought steroids from another local distributor, Niemczyk, in a number of deals arranged in Northampton County in conjunction with authorities. Niemczyk sold quantities of drugs to Lazaro in various parking lots and at Niemczyk’s Williams Township home.

In an April 10 raid of Niemczyk’s house, police said they seized steroids, ecstasy, ketamine (a potent anesthetic), paraphernalia and $6,543 cash.

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