Raid in Brooklyn nets more than $7 million in human growth hormone

This story has been corrected. Read below

A New York pharmacy linked to a widening probe of human growth hormone in sports was raided on Tuesday by state investigators who seized enough raw powder to make nearly a million HGH doses, according to the officials involved.

The raid of Lowen's Pharmacy in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, was the second in five months. In May, investigators with the New York Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement found employees mixing $200,000 worth of steroids and growth hormone in a back room. On Tuesday, they found 90 grams of raw human growth hormone, worth an estimated $7.2 million. Also found were kilogram quantities of three popular steroids: testosterone, nandrolone and stanazolol.

"This is much bigger than what we thought," said Mark Haskins, an investigator with the state's Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement.

The investigators are the same ones who have been working with the Albany (N.Y.) District Attorney's office in its probe of Florida's Signature Pharmacy. In recent weeks, Major League Baseball officials have met with Toronto third baseman Troy Glaus and St. Louis outfielder Rick Ankiel, whose names surfaced in connection with that investigation, to discuss reports that they received growth hormone from Signature.

On Tuesday, Haskins and officers from the New York Police Department carted out boxes filled with prescriptions from many of the same "wellness clinics" that received prescriptions filled by Signature.

One of the roughly 20 boxes carted away contained prescription requests from The Health and Rejuvenation Center, a clinic in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., where the New York Daily News reported that Ankiel went to get his HGH.

"It's hard to believe that all the growth hormone we found was meant for the people of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn," Haskins said.

The records are being turned over to the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office for further investigation. Twenty computers also were seized by the NYPD.

The raid began on Monday evening. By Tuesday afternoon, the investigators obtained a warrant to search an office above the pharmacy that was used by its vice president, Edward Letendre. That was where they found the hidden cache of growth hormone.

The growth hormone seized from Lowen's on Tuesday was imported from China. Although the federal Food & Drug prohibits the sale of Chinese-made HGH, it remains popular in the U.S. because of its high quality and low price. In a separate case, a federal grand jury in Rhode Island grand jury indicted China's leading manufacturer of growth hormone last month.

Letendre was taken into custody on charges of criminal diversion of prescription medicines. Efforts to contact him Tuesday were unsuccessful.

Lowen's is housed in a building owned by Julius Nasso, a pharmacist-turned-movie producer who was sentenced to prison in 2003 for conspiring with Gambino crime family members to extort money from the actor Steven Segal. His son, Julius Jr., is a part owner of Lowen's.

Throughout Tuesday, customers who tried to enter the pharmacy found the door locked. A hastily scribbled sign read: "Due to mechanical problems, we are temporarily closed."

Shaun Assael writes about the Lowen's investigation in his new book, "Steroid Nation," available here.

In this Oct. 16 story about a steroids raid in Brooklyn on ESPN.com, the name of a clinic in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., was incorrect. The name of the clinic is The Health and Rejuvenation Center.