Cops squeeze alleged ‘juice’ joint

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A Bay Ridge pharmacy which sidelined as a steroid clearing house was at the epicenter of a profitable illegal “juicing” enterprise that flexed its way through gyms throughout both Staten Island and Brooklyn, officials alleged.

After months of speculation, prosecutors from the Kings County District Attorney’s office finally explained the role Lowen’s Drug Store at 6902 Third Avenue allegedly held in the steroid scandal that many believe led proprietor John Rossi to take his own life last year.

Kings County District Attorney Charles Hynes said that Rossi had allegedly conspired with Staten Island Dr. Richard Lucente to supply the illegal drugs he wrote prescriptions for.

Lucente, who operates out of the New York Anti-Aging and Wellness Center on Clove Road in Richmond County, provided scores of body builders and weight lifters prescriptions for both steroids and human growth hormone, including a body builder the doctor knew recently had a heart transplant, Hynes charged.

Dr. Lucente has been implicated in the death of weight lifter Joe Baglio because he provided steroid prescriptions to him while knowing that he had a heart transplant because of his previous steroid abuse, officials alleged.

Further abuse of steroids provided by Dr. Lucente caused the muscle man to die of heart failure in 2007, officials alleged.

“Steroids and Human Growth Hormones are dangerous substances that should not be taken lightly,” Hynes said at the Tuesday morning press conference. “As we see here, they can cause severe heart damage, even death.”

Prosecutors said that once writing a prescription, Lucente would allegedly send his patient to Lowen’s Drug Store to get the order filled out.

In turn, the pharmacy allegedly paid Lucente almost $30,000 in kickbacks between 2005 and 2007, the indictment against Lucente states.

During a prolonged investigation that included at least two raids at the store, Rossi, 56, shot himself inside an office above the pharmacy in January 2008.

Lucente was indicted on 76 counts of criminal sale of a prescription for a controlled substance and reckless endangerment.

If convicted, he could be sentenced five and a half years for each count, officials said.

Lucente pleaded not guilty at his arraignment and was awaiting his next court date as this paper went to press.

Prosecutor said that although they can’t charge Rossi, they can seek some kind of recompense from the remaining principals in the Lowen’s corporation, who could be facing stiff fines.

Lowen’s Drug Store is currently under new management, explained Richard Signorelli, an attorney who had represented the pharmacy in the past.

“The Lowen’s companies are currently inactive and have been for some time due to the tragic death of their principal one year ago,” Signorelli said Tuesday in a statement. “I hope that today would be the first step for the ending of this unfortunate situation for the family of the decedent.”

Prosecutors confirmed that no one currently employed at Lowen’s was involved in the steroid scandal.

Updated 3:32 pm, October 19, 2011
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