MIAMI - A cousin of New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez who was the star's longtime personal assistant pleaded guilty Friday to a federal drug charge, the last remaining defendant in the probe into steroids illegally provided to athletes through a South Florida clinic.
Yuri Sucart, 52, admitted Friday in Miami federal court that he conspired with others to distribute human growth hormone to athletes, some of high school age. Seven others, including former Biogenesis of America clinic owner Anthony Bosch, have previously pleaded guilty and received sentences ranging from probation to four years in prison.
Under a plea agreement with prosecutors, Sucart faces between eight and 14 months in prison at sentencing June 4. His attorney, Ed O'Donnell IV, said he will seek a sentence of four months' house arrest, in part because Sucart is suffering from serious heart and circulatory ailments that require him to use a walker.
"The government is not going to agree to that, but we're going to ask for it," O'Donnell said. "He just wants to take care of himself and get this over with."
Major League Baseball's investigation into use of banned substances linked to Biogenesis resulted in the suspensions of 14 players, including Rodriguez for all of last season. Rodriguez, now back with the Yankees as a likely designated hitter, will not have to testify in open court with Sucart's guilty plea. Rodriguez publicly apologized in a handwritten note earlier this year for his conduct.
U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga read a document at Friday's hearing, signed by Sucart, in which he admitted bringing professional baseball players to Bosch as steroid customers for as much as $13,500 a month between 2010 and April 2013. Sucart also brought other athletes, ranging in age from 17 to 19, to Bosch as they sought to play college baseball.
"You actively recruited the players by telling them you had a 'doctor' who could help the players get bigger and recover from injuries faster," Altonaga read. "The 'doctor' did not accept any checks, only cash, because cash did not leave behind any evidence."
"Correct," Sucart responded through a Spanish interpreter.
In Biogenesis court documents, Sucart's attorneys have said he worked as an assistant for years to meet Rodriguez's "every need, whim and instructions, often times working seven days a week." Those documents also said Sucart was a "steroid mule" for Rodriguez with the Yankees and the Texas Rangers.
"He protected your reputation, your confidences, your secrets," Sucart's lawyers wrote to Rodriguez.
The two had a falling out in late 2012, leading Rodriguez to stop paying Sucart his annual salary. Sucart in turn demanded money in return for his silence in the drug case, and the three-time American League MVP eventually offered Sucart $600,000 and the value of his three-bedroom home, according to Sucart's lawyers.
Sucart, however, wanted $5 million and the house as well. Prosecutors say the two eventually settled in 2013 for about $900,000, and O'Donnell said Sucart did not agree to cooperate in the investigation.