A physician who worked with a Bay Ridge pharmacist to provide illegal steroids to borough juicers squeezed out a plea arrangement from prosecutors on Friday.
As his trial entered its third week, Dr. Richard Lucente, 38, agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy with the understanding that he will receive five years probation. He will also have to serve 200 hours of community service and give up his medical license, prosecutors said. He’s expected to be sentenced on May 12 in front of Judge Abraham Gerges.
Assistant District Attorney Michael Spanakos said he was pleased with the deal, even though Lucente was facing 30 years in the slammer for prescribing steroids and human growth hormone to scores of people “for no legitimate purpose,” prosecutors said.
“He is a convicted felon,” Spanakos told reporters. “He is not writing prescriptions.”
Swarmed by reporters after the plea arrangement was struck, Lucente said that he pleaded guilty to avoid jail and “be with my son.”
It was an anti-climactic end to a saga that had riveted Bay Ridge and Staten Island for years.
Lucente, who saw patients at the New York Anti-Aging and Wellness Center on Staten Island, had a patient list that included 19 police officers and several weightlifters, many from Brooklyn. It also included Staten Island body-builder Joseph Baglio, whose prolonged steroid abuse damaged his heart so badly that he needed a transplant before meeting Lucente.
Baglio died of heart failure in 2007 after Lucente supplied him with a host of testosterone, steroid and human growth hormone prescriptions with full knowledge of his medical history, claiming that the prescriptions were for Baglio’s “testosterone deficiency,” prosecutors said.
Once he wrote the prescriptions, Lucente sent his patients to Lowen’s Drug Store, on Third Avenue between Ovington and Bay Ridge avenues in Bay Ridge. As early as 2004, Lowen’s had marketed itself “as a source for compounded hormones, including testosterone to physicians in Brooklyn and Staten Island,” according to an indictment.
Lowen’s reportedly paid Lucente almost $30,000 in kickbacks between 2005 and 2007 for steering steroid patients its way. He also received $530,000 from the 220 clients to whom he provided steroid prescriptions, according to court papers.
During a prolonged criminal investigation that included at least two raids at Lowen’s, owner John Rossi, 56, took his own life in an office above the pharmacy in January, 2008. Family friends said that the investigation, and the prospect of going to prison, weighed heavily on him.
Criminal charges against Lowen’s were dropped after the suicide, officials said.
Lowen’s is currently under new management. The Rossi family sold the business shortly after the pharmacist’s death.
Attempts to reach John Meringolo, Lucente’s attorney, were unsuccessful. The phone number at the New York Anti-Aging and Wellness Center has been disconnected.