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Lowen's attorney, Paul Aufrichtig, declined comment for this story. Instead, he faxed a recent copy of the Bay Ridge Eagle that included two letters to the editors from Lowen's owner, John Rossi. In them, Rossi outlined his 45 years of community servicesuch as playing Santa every Christmas in his store to hand out giftsand basically laid the blame for the illegal steroids and HGH squarely at the feet of the China supplier, DNP.
In addition to the pharmacy's connection with Nasso, it is also associated with New York Anti-Aging & Wellness Medical Services, a Staten Island hormone-therapy clinic also at the center of the steroid probe. The principals in that venture include osteopath Richard Lucente and John Amato, a/k/a "Flames," who owns several Dolphin Fitness Center gyms. Amato did 15 months in prison and was ordered to make $182,000 in restitution for a pump-and dump stock scam in 2000 involving a company supposedly operating health clubs. Rossi's son-in-law, Edward Letendre, is also a parter in the clinic and a vice president of Lowen's.
The Staten Island clinic was located in the small, redbrick "Fountain of Youth Building" across the street from St. Peter's Cemetery. In a small office on the lower level of that building, Lucente also operated the Life Longevity Center. The office was raided several months ago and appears to have since been vacated. Investigators have found that Lucente wrote more than 2,000 of the 9,300 steroid prescriptions filled at Lowen's over the past 18 months, according to law-enforcement sources.
Lucente tells the Voice that the prescriptions he wrote for the NYPD cops were legitimate. He says that he has some renown in the specialty of hormone replacement and that the officers he saw, most of whom were in their 30s and 40s, were in fact suffering from low testosterone. It's not unusual for a group of men in that age range to suffer from hypogonadism, he says. Lucente denies that the cops were using the testosterone creams and injectible drug to build muscles. (A doctor tells the Voice that it's highly unlikely that a group of relatively young cops would be suffering from hypogonadism. In addition, chronic steroid use has been known to eventually cause the users' testicles to shrink and shrivel.)
Lucente contends that the focus of the investigation is solely on Lowen's, not on him. "I haven't been charged with anything, nor do I expect to be," says Lucente. When asked if he was cooperating with authorities in the probe, Lucente declined comment.
The word "steroid" doesn't appear in the NYPD's Patrol Guide. But the rules manual does say that cops can be fired for ingesting "illegal substances." The last time as many of six cops lost their jobs in the same investigation was the so-called "Dirty 30" scandal involving more than two dozen rogue cops at Harlem's 30th Precinct the early '90s.
The primary line of defense for those with positive steroid tests may be to claim ignorance. A police union source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, tries to make that case. "These guys relied on a doctor's advice," the source says. "He did tests, blood work. What they hell do you expect them to know about it? They're just cops."
Young cops, supposedly suffering from a lack of testosterone. Gotcha.