2 doctors sentenced for steroids

By W. Zachary Malinowski

Journal Staff Writer PROVIDENCE — A national steroid scandal that has led to federal and state raids on pharmaceutical distribution companies in New Jersey and Florida touched down in Rhode Island yesterday as two elderly doctors were sentenced for prescribing thousands of doses of anabolic steroids and human growth hormones.

The sentencing of Ana Maria Santi, 69, of Queens, N.Y., and Victor Mariani, 73, also of Queens and Manhattan, hit close to home when a federal prosecutor said that some of the illegal prescriptions played a role in the brutal assault of an off-duty Rhode Island state trooper last summer.

Adi Goldstein, an Assistant U.S. Attorney, said that James Proulx, a former state corrections officer, had been prescribed the muscle-enhancement drugs in the months before he punched Trooper Brendan R. Doyle in the face last June and nearly killed him.

She said that Proulx’s “increased aggression” and “roid rage” undoubtedly played a role in his vicious attack on Doyle, as well as his past domestic-violence problems with an ex-girlfriend.

Doyle suffered severe head injuries after he was punched to the pavement and he nearly died in the hours and days following the attack. He has undergone extensive physical rehabilitation and is on the road to recovery, while Proulx, who allegedly boasted about the nearly fatal blow to the former girlfriend, has been held on felony assault charges at a prison outside of Rhode Island.

Also attending yesterday’s sentencing before U.S. District Court Judge William E. Smith was the baseball writer for the Baltimore Sun, who is tracking allegations that Baltimore Orioles outfielder Jay Gibbons received performance-enhancing steroids and HGH after both substances were banned from the sport.

The allegations were reported in September by SI.com, Sports Illustrated magazine’s Web site. Gibbons has declined to talk about the report.

Goldstein declined to say whether any professional athletes were implicated in the steroid probe, and even if there were, she said she does not know enough about sports to identify them.

Santi, who suffers from alcoholism, was sentenced to two years in prison and, upon her release, was ordered to serve an additional 12 months in home confinement with an electronic bracelet on her ankle to monitor her movements. Mariani was sentenced to 12 months in home confinement.

Investigators said that Santi recruited Mariani into the prescription-writing scheme.

The sentencings got under way yesterday morning with federal marshals leading Santi, a small, grandmotherly-looking woman, into the third-floor courtroom. Santi, who wore blue prison issued johnnies, smiled at her two well-dressed sons, who watched the proceedings from the spectator’s gallery.

Goldstein, the prosecutor, said that Santi had prescribed about 84,000 doses of steroids and HGH to more than 400 customers of the pharmaceutical companies across the country. Of that total, 4,000 doses went to 20 customers in Rhode Island.

Santi, who had her medical license revoked in New York for health-care fraud in 1999, engaged in illegally writing prescriptions for six years beginning in 2000 and continued even after agents from the federal Food and Drug Administration raided her home in February 2005.

With a “stroke of her pen” and a fax machine, Goldstein said that Santi signed thousands of prescriptions without ever meeting the customers.

“She had no idea who she was writing the prescriptions for and she didn’t care,” Goldstein said. “This is criminal conduct just like dealing drugs on the street corner.”

Goldstein also told the court that Santi was the first doctor who worked with Daniel McGlone, who operated American Pharmaceutical Group from his home in New Brunswick, N.J. At McGlone’s request, Santi and Mariani wrote fraudulent prescriptions for steroids and HGH. In turn, McGlone had the prescriptions filled and shipped to customers who had ordered the drugs through the Internet or from ads in body-building magazines.

McGlone, 54, has pleaded guilty to his role in the conspiracy and he is scheduled to be sentenced in Providence on Feb. 1.

Edward C. Roy, Santi’s lawyer, did not downplay his client’s role in the scheme that netted her about $125,000, far less than the big money players such as McGlone and others who distributed the steroids were making.

He described her actions as “reprehensible, greedy and deserving of a prison sentence.” But he asked the court to sentence her to 12 months in prison and 12 months in home confinement. He also asked the court to mandate that she undergo treatment for alcoholism.

“Her bad judgment comes from the alcohol,” Roy said. “When she’s not drinking, she’s a great person.”

Smith, the sentencing judge, asked Santi to stand before he imposed the penalty of two years in prison. He asked her whether she wanted to address the court. “No, your honor,” she said. “Thank you very much, and I’m sorry for what I did.”

Smith ordered her to reimburse Blue Cross & Blue Shield more than $19,000 for money she collected through the fraudulent prescription scheme. She also faces up to four years in prison in New York for similar crimes.

About an hour after Santi was sentenced, Mariani walked into court to face Smith.

Goldstein and Mariani’s lawyer both asked for leniency, citing Mariani’s cooperation in the investigation, as well as his age and failing health. Smith agreed, saying, “I think he was clearly used in this case by unscrupulous individuals.”

Last March, Mariani’s license to prescribe medicine was retired, but he remains licensed to practice medicine. Goldstein asked Smith to revoke his license to practice.

Smith stopped short of issuing the order, saying he would leave that decision to the board in New York that licenses doctors.

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