Five men in Federal Court in Lake Charles this morning plead guilty to being part of a conspiracy to illegally distribute anabolic steroids in Louisiana and Texas. The two leaders own a local health food store from which they sometimes distributed the drugs.
Planet Nutrition is a local health food store on Prien Lake Road where they say they serve the best smoothie in town. But according to a plea deal with federal prosecutors, at times, the store was also a distribution point for anabolic steroids.
Store co-owners Jordan Blake Berza and Christopher Gass have pleaded guilty as leaders of the conspiracy to distribute the steroids and to money laundering. Three others-- Blake Meche, Canien Lee Matte and Shayne Keith Weekly pleaded guilty to the conspiracy count.
Defense attorney Todd Clemons represents Berza who he says has taken responsibility for what he did. "What he was doing for a short period of time, he and others, were distributing steroids to other young men, mostly here in Lake Charles but in other areas and it's important for me to add that nobody was harmed by the use of these steroids. These are basically young men who are into body building, who were into weight lifting and they were using these steroids strictly for cosmetic purposes." Reporter: "How do you know nobody was harmed by it? "Well, because Jordan knows the people he was involved with. And most of the people he was involved with got indicted."
According to the facts spelled out in a plea agreement the young men smuggled steroids in various forms into the U.S. from China and elsewhere. It says packets of steroid powder were converted into injectable form, bottled and sold in Louisiana and Texas. Some 7000 vials of anabolic steroids were manufactured and sold the drug trafficking organization. Clemons says the young entrepreneurs admit that they made a mistake and they hope to go forward with a successful business in fact, they say they plan to open two new stores within the next six months. "They made some very foolish youthful mistakes in getting involved with steroids. But they have moved beyond that and I think America is the land of redemption. I think America, we're a place of second chances."
Sentencing is set for October 13 when they could get up to ten years in prison and face hundreds of thousand of dollars in fines. In all there were thirteen defendants. More guilty pleas are expected in Federal Court in Lake Charles tomorrow.
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