With a guilty plea by the former Newtown police sergeant reported to be at the head of an international steroid manufacturing and distribution ring, federal authorities are closing in on the individuals charged with being part of the ring.
The ringleader, Steven Santucci, 39, of Waterbury, pleaded guilty Dec. 9 to one count of conspiracy to distribute anabolic steroids and one count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments, according to Deirdre Daly, United States attorney for the District of Connecticut.
Santucci, the former Newtown police sergeant, made his plea in Hartford Federal Court. He faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 30 years.
Twelve individuals, including Police Commissioner Raymond Martin of Easton, were charged as a result of a long-term investigation led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and Homeland Security, with the assistance of the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Martin was charged July 14. As alleged in the criminal complaint, a court-authorized wiretap intercepted Martin engaging in text communications with other members of the conspiracy, discussing the distribution of anabolic steroids and oxycodone.
The complaint charged Martin with conspiracy to possess oxycodone with intent to distribute, an offense that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years.
Of the 11 individuals previously charged in the 12-count superseding indictment, Santucci and three others have pleaded guilty. Santucci was arrested on April 29 and is released on a $100,000 bond. He is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Robert N. Chatigny on March 3.
Former Newtown emergency communications dispatcher Jason Chickos, 46, of Bridgeport pleaded guilty Oct. 19 in U.S. District Court to one count of conspiracy to distribute anabolic steroids, Daly said.
In pleading guilty, Chickos admitted that he purchased anabolic steroids from another member of the conspiracy and distributed them to others, Daly said.
At the time, Chickos was a civilian dispatcher with the Newtown Police Department. He is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Robert N. Chatigny on Jan. 11, and faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years. Chickos was arrested on April 29 and is released on a $100,000 bond.
Mark Bertanza, 34, of Shelton and Michael Mase, 32, of Sherman previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute anabolic steroids. Chickos, Bertanza and Mase originally pleaded not guilty but changed their plea, Daly said.
The other individuals charged in the ring are Alex Kenyhercz, 28, of Ansonia, Frank Pecora, 53, of Derby, Jeffrey Gentile, 33, of Ansonia, Steven Fernandes, 54, of Southington, Guido Volpe, 36, of Prospect, John Koch, 48, of Coventry, and Louis Borrero, 52, of Ansonia.
Santucci, Kenyhercz, Bertanza, Chickos, Pecora, Gentile, Fernandes, and Mase were arrested in late April and were charged by indictment on May 6. Volpe, Koch and Borrero were arrested June 4. Pecora is detained while awaiting trial and the other defendants are released on bond.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rahul Kale and Robert M. Spector are prosecuting the case.
Steroids and prescription drugs
According to court documents and statements made in court, the investigations revealed that Santucci and others were receiving shipments of steroid ingredients from China and manufacturing and distributing wholesale quantities of steroids.
The investigation also revealed that certain members of the conspiracy were distributing prescription pills, including oxycodone, as well as cocaine.
Santucci used more than $120,000 in proceeds from the sale of anabolic steroids to wire payments to foreign sellers of ingredients to make liquid anabolic steroids, and to purchase drug packaging materials from domestic companies, Daly said.
During the course of the investigation, law enforcement officers seized hundreds of vials of steroids, approximately 600 grams of raw testosterone powder, approximately 350 grams of powder cocaine, and four long guns, Daly said.
Daly stressed that a federal complaint is not evidence of guilt. Charges are only allegations and each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Martin’s case is still pending. He referred comment to his attorney, John R. Gulash Jr. of Bridgeport. Gulash said it would be “inappropriate to comment on a pending criminal matter. The matter is progressing.”
A member of the Easton Board of Police Commissioners, alternate on the Planning and Zoning Commission and nominating chairman of the Easton Republican Town Committee, Martin took a leave of absence from these agencies following his arrest in July.
“I do not wish my recent personal issue to become a distraction and thus have decided that a leave of absence is in everyone’s best interests,” he wrote in a letter to Adam Dunsby, first selectman, and James Riling, Easton Republican Town Committee chairman.
“Please rest assured that upon a favorable conclusion of this personal issue I look to resume the work that I do for the town. I am hopeful that this matter will be resolved expeditiously.”
What he meant by a leave of absence is unclear. Martin has not attended police commission meetings since his arrest in July.
However, after taking a hiatus from the Planning and Zoning Commission for several months, he resumed his participation and is noted in the meeting minutes as attending as an alternate at the Oct. 26, Nov. 9 and Nov. 16 meetings.
Robert Maquat, P&Z chairman, said Martin chose not to attend meetings for several months after the arrest but since resumed coming to meetings.
Maquat said Martin is “a valuable contributing member of the P&Z. As far as I’m concerned he has a right to come to meetings and a right to contribute. Who am I to pass judgment?”
Martin retains membership on the Easton Republican Town Committee, which is not a town agency subject to public disclosure.