MLB's A-Rod inquiry: Investigators were told documents were stolen, but bought records anyway, officials say
Major League Baseball ignored repeated warnings that records they sought in the Alex Rodriguez Biogenesis scandal had been stolen and that they were not to purchase them, according to Florida investigators and an April police report obtained by Newsday.
MLB investigators bought Biogenesis records anyway, and a Boca Raton police detective investigating the theft noted that baseball officials neglected to notify law enforcement officials that they had done so for nearly eight months.
The police report, which has not been previously publicized, details how a detective's investigation into the burglary of documents from a car parked outside a strip-mall tanning salon turned into an examination of whether MLB officials broke the law when they paid for records showing that players had used performance-enhancing drugs.
The investigation ended on April 11 with no criminal charges filed against anyone except Reginald St. Fleur, a tanning salon employee arrested months earlier after police said his DNA was found on the burglarized vehicle.
However, Det. Terrence Payne wrote in his report that there was also "evidence of involvement" by "several MLB investigators" and three other men -- two brothers from Long Island and a felon whom MLB paid $125,000 in exchange for the stolen records.
Payne's report is the latest in a series of unflattering revelations about MLB's aggressive pursuit of evidence that Rodriguez and other players used performance-enhancing drugs provided by Anthony Bosch, the founder of the unlicensed Coral Gables anti-aging clinic Biogenesis.
In the face of legal challenges and public criticism from Rodriguez and others about how they handled their investigation, baseball officials have steadfastly denied that they knowingly bought stolen Biogenesis records.
"We have stated repeatedly that we had no knowledge that the documents we purchased were stolen," MLB senior vice president of public relations Pat Courtney said Friday when contacted by Newsday about the Boca Raton police report.
Sandra Boonenberg, a spokeswoman for the Boca Raton Police Department, stated unequivocally that a Florida investigator "warned MLB not to purchase the documents" and that the investigator told their detective about that conversation "before the documents were purchased" by MLB. The Boca Raton Police Department had not informed MLB of the results of its investigation, Boonenberg said.
MLB officials have previously acknowledged that records from Bosch's clinic were central to their PED investigation. The records documented Bosch's illicit treatment of more than a dozen players, including Rodriguez, Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun, then-Oakland Athletics pitcher Bartolo Colon and then-Texas Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz.
The Boca Raton police report and MLB records subpoenaed in the department's investigation shed light on MLB's furtive attempts to score the coveted Biogenesis documents by dealing with several opportunistic tanning salon aficionados.
MLB investigators also obtained security footage from a Walgreens pharmacy to learn the identity of an anonymous caller, secretly videotaped the person who gave them the documents, and allegedly offered a job with the league in exchange for the Biogenesis records.
Rodriguez, who is currently serving a season-long suspension for using PEDs, made the conduct of MLB's investigative unit the centerpiece of his defense as he fought to overturn a 211-game suspension.
"How can the gross, ongoing misconduct of the MLB investigations division not be relevant to my suspension when my suspension supposedly results directly from that division's work?" Rodriguez said in a statement released in late October during his arbitration hearing.
Rodriguez's lawyers claimed in a lawsuit filed last October that baseball's investigators engaged in "illegal and unethical behavior" throughout their investigation by intimidating witnesses, impersonating law-enforcement officials and paying a key witness for "favorable testimony." Daniel T. Mullin, a former NYPD deputy chief who had led MLB's investigative unit since its inception in 2008, was also alleged to have engaged in a sexual relationship with a potential witness.
In the lawsuit, Rodriguez accused MLB's investigators of "purchasing documents they knew to be stolen." Payne noted that it was Rodriguez's lawsuit, which has since been dropped, that prompted the detective to investigate MLB's role in the matter.
Newsday obtained Payne's report and MLB documents he subpoenaed in the investigation via a Freedom of Information request.
Citing a desire to restructure its investigative unit, MLB recently fired five of its members. Among those fired were Mullin and Ed Dominguez, who was specifically told by a Florida investigator not to buy the Biogenesis records, according to a source familiar with the police investigation.
Mullin said Saturday it was "absolutely untrue" that a Florida official warned MLB investigators to not buy stolen Biogenesis documents. He declined further comment.
Dominguez could not be reached for comment.
Joe Tacopina, Rodriguez's attorney, said that he would not comment to respect an agreement with MLB officials that all parties would no longer disparage each other in the press.
MLB's Biogenesis problem began in January 2013 when the Miami New Times, a weekly newspaper, published an expose on Bosch's clinic and his baseball clients, including Rodriguez.
The New Times story relied on documents leaked by Porter Fischer, a disgruntled former Biogenesis employee who said Bosch stiffed him on a $4,000 loan.
Fischer and his Biogenesis documents suddenly became prized commodities.
MLB investigators, purported associates of Rodriguez, members of the media and even friends besieged Fischer with requests to acquire the documents for themselves, according to his statements in the Boca Raton police report.
Fischer told the Boca police detective that MLB investigators doggedly trailed him in pursuit of Biogenesis evidence. He said MLB paid him $5,000 as a "down payment" and offered him a job as a consultant, with a bonus of $12,000 and a salary of $1,000 a week.
And on March 19, 2013, Fischer said, MLB attorney Steven Gonzalez offered him $125,000 for Biogenesis records.
Fischer declined MLB's offers, at one point stating "it was not enough to start a new life," according to the report.
But even as Fischer rebuffed Gonzalez's offer, MLB investigators found a South Florida source willing to sell them Biogenesis records.
Peter Carbone, a Long Island native who attended Half Hollow Hills High School East, was friends with Fischer and also knew Bosch from Boca Body, an anti-aging clinic Bosch operated from inside a Coral Gables tanning salon before he founded Biogenesis, Fischer later told police. Carbone also knew Rodriguez because he had driven Bosch to the Yankee superstar's house, according to Fischer.
Carbone offered to return Fischer's sought-after records to Bosch in exchange for the money Fischer said Bosch owed him. But Fischer later learned that Carbone never delivered the records to Bosch.
Instead, Carbone sold them to Rodriguez, as he later told MLB investigators. According to internal MLB documents subpoenaed in the Boca Raton investigation, Carbone also told MLB officials in an interview on March 18, 2013, that he knew a man who had the same Biogenesis records as Fischer and "would do a onetime deal and be on his way."
Two days later, MLB investigative chief Mullin met that man, Gary L. Jones, at a Florida diner. Jones, a tanning bed repairman who spent two years in prison after a 1987 conviction for passing counterfeit bills, gave Mullin four USB flash drives containing copies of Biogenesis records in exchange for $100,000.
In an affidavit Jones later signed at the behest of Rodriguez's attorneys, Jones stated that Mullin told him "he would have paid me much more if the documents had been originals and not copies."
But Jones then disavowed his own sworn affidavit in an interview with Det. Payne in which he also claimed that MLB investigators knew the documents they were buying had been stolen.
The affidavit was wrong, Jones said, because "he really didn't read what he signed."
Though Fischer had refused to make a deal with MLB, he agreed to use additional Biogenesis records in his possession to help the Florida Department of Health build a case against Bosch for practicing medicine without a license.
Fischer had stashed original Biogenesis documents in a storage facility in Ocala, Florida, he later told police. He rented a Toyota Corolla and retrieved the records on March 24, 2013.
Fischer arranged to bring the documents back to South Florida and deliver them to Jerome Hill, an investigator with the state's Department of Health.
But during the trip, Fischer spoke on the phone with Jones, who was also a friend of his. The tanning bed repairman urged Fischer to make a stop on the way at a tanning salon in Boca Raton to try "a new spray" he had developed, according to the Boca police report.
Fischer agreed and parked the rental car outside a Boca Raton strip mall. He met Jones at the Boca Tanning Club, a salon owned by Anthony Carbone, Peter's younger brother.
Fischer, according to the Boca police report, stepped inside a booth to tan for less than 10 minutes. When he left the salon, he saw that the window of his car had been smashed and his trunk flung open.
Stolen from Fischer's car: A cellphone, a Beretta .32 pistol, and a bag Fischer said contained cash and a laptop. The Biogenesis records were also gone.
As Boca Raton Police Det. Payne investigated the break-in, he talked to Hill, the Department of Health investigator attempting to build a case against Bosch.
"Hill told me that he repeatedly told MLB that files were stolen and they were not to take any action," Payne later wrote in a report about a conversation that occurred weeks before MLB purchased the second set of documents.
The Florida Department of Health did not respond to requests to make Hill available for an interview.
Although the baseball representative was not named in Payne's report, a Florida official with knowledge of the case said Hill spoke by phone with MLB investigator Dominguez either the day of, or the day after, the burglary of Fischer's rental car.
Hill told Dominguez that if MLB investigators came across any Biogenesis records, they were to notify state officials immediately, the source said.
On April 16, 2013, roughly three weeks after the records were stolen from Fischer's car, Mullin again met Jones at the same diner and purchased additional Biogenesis records, this time for $25,000, according to the Boca Raton police report.
MLB investigators did not notify Hill or Payne that they had purchased Biogenesis records.
"At no point did any[body] from MLB contact me and offer information related to this criminal case until I called them in early November, almost 8 months later," Payne noted in his report.
"Jerome Hill warned MLB not to purchase the documents before they did," said Boonenberg, the Boca Raton Police Department spokeswoman. "The conversation he had with our detective was before the documents were purchased. Hill told Payne then that he had warned MLB not to purchase them."
The alleged burglar
Payne arrested St. Fleur in December 2013 after a blood smear found under the door handle of Fischer's burglarized rental car matched St. Fleur's DNA. He is currently awaiting trial on burglary charges.
St. Fleur said he did "odd jobs" for Anthony Carbone and worked with Jones, according to an audio recording of his pre-arrest police interview.
In the interview, a Boca Raton police officer goaded St. Fleur into cooperating with the investigation while pointing out that Jones made a total of $325,000 by selling stolen records to MLB and a surreptitiously recorded cellphone video of the sale that he peddled to Rodriguez.
"I know that you don't have an interest in this," said the Boca officer, who was not identified in the recording. "It's the whole Major League Baseball thing where people are stealing from each other, trying to make money, sell things, and I don't think you would do it without somebody asking you to do it."
St. Fleur, 20, refused to cooperate.
"I guess you're hoping Anthony or Gary's going to come bail you out," the officer said.
St. Fleur's attorney, Alan Soven, said Friday that Anthony Carbone paid for him to represent St. Fleur at his bond hearing and "might have stepped up and given the bond."
Anthony Carbone said Friday he played no role in the burglary.
"I feel pretty confident that -- whatever -- I didn't do anything," Carbone said. "Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?"
Det. Payne acknowledged in his report that a member of the media sent him Rodriguez's October lawsuit against MLB, which included allegations that baseball officials purchased stolen records. The suit prompted him to reopen the St. Fleur case to examine whether MLB's investigators had committed any crimes.
Boonenberg, the Boca Raton police spokeswoman, told Newsday in January that Payne was also "investigating whether St. Fleur was acting alone."
In response to a January subpoena Payne sent to the league's Park Avenue offices, MLB provided materials from its own Biogenesis probe. Those records include internal notes concerning investigators' meetings with Fischer and Peter Carbone, and Mullin's purchase of records from Jones.
The records also detail an incident in which MLB obtained Walgreens surveillance video and Department of Motor Vehicle files to determine the identity of the person who left an anonymous message with Mullin. The security footage captured Jones driving up to the pay phone in question in a vintage Mercedes he bought eight days after selling the second set of Biogenesis records to Mullin.
MLB attorney Daniel Halem told Payne that he believed Fischer and Jones were working together and that "the original files were never stolen from Fischer's car as Fischer reported," according to the police report.
Fischer said any allegation that he took part in the burglary of his vehicle is a "smoke screen" by MLB.
"MLB doesn't want to get its hands dirty because it either orchestrated the robbery or it purchased stolen documents," Fischer said.
In deciding not to file charges against baseball officials, Payne cited the chain of custody problems regarding Biogenesis documents, the number of people involved and the multiple sets of documents that had circulated.
MLB commissioner Bud Selig, who will retire at the end of the 2014 season, recently stood by his office's actions.
"The only thing I'll say about the whole Alex Rodriguez thing, if you want to have a tough program, you better have tough enforcement," Selig said in a public appearance on April 25. "And once the Biogenesis thing broke, we did what we had to do."
With Jim Baumbach and Steven Marcus