Trial set to start for defendant in steroid email@example.com 03/21/2012 9:03 PM
The first defendant to go to trial in the “Operation Bulk-Up” anabolic steroid network is scheduled to face a Warren County jury Thursday.
Jessica Howard, 27, of Cincinnati, was charged with trafficking in drugs and engaging in corrupt activity in September after the Warren County Drug Task Force rounded up 32 people in a sting it dubbed “Operation Bulk-Up.”
Some of the defendants’ names were not released because they cooperated with the task force. Of the 25 people named, nine have already been sentenced, four others have pleaded guilty, three received intervention in lieu of conviction, five — including Howard — have trials scheduled, two were not listed in court records, one man’s case was dismissed and another man died. The typical sentence has been three years probation and fines, among other sanctions
The almost two-year investigation started with a tip that people were selling steroids to high school athletes out of the Countryside YMCA in Lebanon. An undercover officer also bought drugs from a member of the Urban Active facility in Deerfield Twp. Both the Y and the fitness center said their employees were not involved in the network and they had no knowledge of the activities.
The investigation, according to law enforcement, broke up a steroid distribution network that had been operating in several states over the past decade.
Assistant Prosecutor Andy Sievers, who handles all the drug task force cases, said one defendant, Richard Blevins, 39, of Milford is scheduled for a bench trial and he expects most of the outstanding defendants to take pleas.
Howard’s attorney, Frank Schiavone, Jr., said his client is going to trial because her fiance, Matthew Geraci — who is facing 30 counts in varying degrees for drug trafficking, corrupt activity and possession — is the alleged kingpin of the operation and she was sucked into the morass. He said she is innocent.
“This is one of those cases where, I’m not really sure why she was even indicted, or why they believe she was a vital player in all of this,” he said. “She said she had no involvement.”