>Federal prosecutors landed two guilty pleas Tuesday in what was characterized in court as a multi-agency effort to take down “a large international conspiracy” to peddle anabolic steroids and other illegal muscle-building drugs.
Pleading guilty, and now facing September sentencings, were Paul G. Matthews, 51, of the Pittsburgh area, and Ronald J. Sales, 46, of the St. Louis area. Prosecutors would not provide more detailed information on their residences.
Mr. Matthews ran Matthews Training Concepts and was caught running a steroid manufacturing facility in his home.
Although there was no testimony at hearings Tuesday to any direct business links between Mr. Matthews and Mr. Sales, both were accused of conspiracy to distribute 40,000 units of steroids in Western Pennsylvania and elsewhere, and of paying for them by sending money to Ukraine and China.
At Mr. Matthews’ guilty plea hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary McKeen Houghton said that he was doing business with two Ukrainian men, later identified as Oleksandr “Musclebear” Skochyk and Yeveniy Suray.
The two Ukrainians were indicted by a Pittsburgh-based federal grand jury a year ago for distributing illegal, Chinese-made steroids and synthetic testosterone. Arrest warrants were issued, and Ms. Houghton said the men are being extradited.
She said that if Mr. Matthews had not pleaded guilty, agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency, Food and Drug Administration, Internal Revenue Service, Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Postal Service, among others, would have testified at his trial.
She described how a confidential source tipped agents off to Mr. Matthews’ steroid lab, leading to three undercover buys. Packages of steroids from China, addressed to him, were seized at Los Angeles International Airport. A Feb. 10, 2010, raid on Mr. Matthews’ home revealed that he was buying raw steroid powder and manufacturing individual doses, which were sold illegally and without warning labels.
Investigators then got search warrants for participants’ email accounts, and with help from Canadian law enforcement obtained hundreds of emails between the Ukrainians and their customers, Ms. Houghton said.
Downtown attorney William C. Kaczynski, representing Mr. Suray, declined comment. Mr. Skochyk has no attorney listed in court records.
Mr. Matthews and Mr. Sales could face as much as 20 years in prison, but their actual sentences are likely to be lighter because the prosecution has confirmed that they have accepted responsibility for their crimes. Mr. Sales has a prior drug conviction, which might lengthen his sentence.