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MLB told feds about players' ties to Biogenesis months before story broke

Alex Rodriguez looks on during batting practice during

Alex Rodriguez looks on during batting practice during Game 4 of the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. (Oct. 18, 2012) Credit: Getty

Major League Baseball tipped off federal drug enforcement agents about individuals tied to the South Florida anti-aging clinic Biogenesis in September 2012, four months before the Miami New Times' blockbuster report revealed that clinic owner Anthony Bosch supplied performance-enhancing drugs to professional ballplayers, according to a federal wiretap affidavit reviewed by Newsday.

The disclosure that the federal investigation began much earlier than previously known -- and that MLB triggered an inquiry that would involve nine of its baseball players as potential witnesses in a criminal case against eight defendants -- is made in confidential records related to the Biogenesis case.

The records provide a window into a sprawling investigation that has involved a confidential informant, an undercover agent, wiretaps and nearly a dozen DEA debriefing sessions with Bosch.

The records show that by the summer of 2012, MLB's own investigators had uncovered a pattern involving failed drug tests that they traced to the ring surrounding the Biogenesis clinic. Baseball's investigation led to the suspension of 14 players, including Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez.

Rob Manfred, who is MLB's chief operating officer and is set to take over as commissioner in January, said during Rodriguez's arbitration hearing last fall that then-San Francisco Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera's PED ban in August 2012 refocused their attention on what appeared to be a South Florida drug pipeline. A rash of players tied to the region had failed drug tests because of high testosterone levels.

"The focus of our interest in Bosch and South Florida picked up in the summer of 2012 when we began to realize that there were players who had connections, agents who were connected to those players, trainers who were connected to those players, businesses that were related to Bosch and others that we suspected were involved in the provision of performance-enhancing drugs," Manfred said, according to a transcript of his confidential testimony.

Though an MLB spokesman confirmed that league investigators asked for the DEA's assistance in the summer of 2012, he declined to explain why the league has not publicly revealed its role in initiating the federal investigation.

The league quickly took its information to the DEA, including the involvement of Rodriguez's cousin Yuri Sucart, according to the wiretap affidavit reviewed by Newsday.

MLB's Department of Investigations "provided DEA with information connecting Sucart and Bosch to numerous MLB players, specifically, to baseball players that have previously tested positive for substances that have been banned by MLB," DEA special agent Gene Grafenstein wrote of his "source of information" in a warrant affidavit submitted in April 2013 to a Miami federal judge.

Dan Mullin, who then was the head of baseball's DOI, declined to comment.

By October 2012, a paid confidential informant was feeding information to the DEA about Sucart and others linked to Biogenesis, the records show. That same month, Rodriguez still was relying on Bosch for performance-enhancing drugs, according to Bosch's sworn testimony filed as evidence in the criminal case.

Rodriguez struggled at the plate throughout the 2012 playoffs, and when the Yankees traveled to Detroit before the third game of the American League Championship Series against the Tigers, Bosch said he met him there.

"He was concerned about playing well in Detroit so he asked me to go to Detroit to see what we could -- what I could do to help him," Bosch testified during Rodriguez's arbitration hearing, a transcript of which is among documents in the government's evidence.

Rodriguez's girlfriend greeted him at a back entrance of a Detroit hotel, Bosch stated, and led him on a clandestine route to the third baseman's suite.

"He was eager to -- he was eager to play, but he was frustrated that they were not playing him," Bosch testified.

Bosch said he provided human growth hormone and other substances to Rodriguez on that trip.

By December 2012, Sucart unwittingly had introduced the confidential informant and an undercover DEA agent to Carlos Acevedo, Bosch's former business partner, according to Acevedo's later admissions in a court filing.

That filing states that Acevedo and Sucart "conspired to sell testosterone-based programs" to the informant and the agent through April 2013. In March and April 2013, agents obtained warrants to tap phones used by Sucart and Acevedo. The electronic surveillance of Biogenesis targets would continue for more than a year.

Though the agents obtained a pen register warrant for Bosch -- which allowed them to record the phone numbers of calls going in and out -- they did not tap his phone despite his role as a Biogenesis ringleader.

"My personal opinion is that MLB sought to protect Bosch," said attorney Frank Quintero Jr., who represents a Miami-area baseball coach indicted in the case. "He had already cut his deal with MLB. MLB knew there was going to be an arbitration hearing and wanted to make sure that his credibility wasn't further hurt."

Since the publication of the Miami New Times article in January 2013, baseball's DOI embarked on an aggressive pursuit of Biogenesis evidence, including buying documents from a convicted felon and filing a lawsuit against figures linked to Biogenesis.

In June 2013, Bosch agreed to cooperate in MLB's case against Rodriguez and other ballplayers, records show. His testimony against Rodriguez in arbitration proceedings would help MLB suspend him for the entire 2014 season.

Among the promises MLB made to Bosch in the agreement, which was obtained by Newsday, was that it would inform any law enforcement agencies of his role in "the important public policy goal of eradicating [PEDs] from professional baseball and request that such agencies consider his cooperation with MLB."

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida, which is prosecuting the Biogenesis case, declined to comment.

After a year of public denials, Rodriguez admitted to the DEA on Jan. 29 that he paid Bosch $12,000 monthly for PEDs and employed Sucart as a steroid runner, according to a recent report in the Miami Herald. Rodriguez could be called as a witness in the federal case against Sucart, who is charged with multiple counts of providing testosterone, and other defendants.

Bosch, who did not respond to calls from Newsday, was arrested on Aug. 5 and has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute testosterone and agreed to testify against his co-defendants.

Besides the ballplayers, those who struck immunity deals include Bosch's former chief financial officer, his medical supplies provider, a Biogenesis nurse, Rodriguez's business agent "Pepe" Gomez, and Marcelo Albir, a former University of Miami pitcher who MLB believed was supplying PEDs to the Milwaukee Brewers' Ryan Braun.

Bosch still is reaping the benefits of his ties to MLB. In March 2014, he signed a new agreement with MLB, this one covering his criminal defense. MLB agreed to finance a legal team headed by former Assistant U.S. Attorney Guy Lewis, who billed $750 an hour. Though the agreement stipulates that MLB is allowed to view itemized legal invoices, it states that "MLB has no control" over his defense.

But legal expenses are not the only way Bosch, who told federal agents that he has been unemployed since the demise of Biogenesis, apparently has profited from his agreements with MLB. As part of the 2013 contract, MLB agreed to pay up to $2,400 a day for Bosch's security. A DEA debriefing report in April 2014 made note of the arrangement.

"Bosch advised that currently he is still being provided security . . . however it is a minimal security team which only includes an individual, a driver. Bosch advised that he will only have the driver until June 2014."

The company MLB paid for Bosch's security is Miami-based Professional Protection, Inc.

In April, when Bosch was facing possible arrest for unpaid child support, Professional Protection Inc. paid $7,500 on behalf of Bosch, as revealed by a check filed in a Miami court.

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