Steroid Underground Lab Shut Down with Help of YMCA in Operation Bulk Up

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Mike Carroll, the President and CEO of Countryside YMCA in Lebanon (Ohio), kept a big secret for almost two years. He had alerted the Warren County Prosecutor’s Office of a rumor that there was a steroid dealer selling bodybuilding drugs to members in the Cardio Strength Center of the Y.

The prosecutor’s office alerted Major John Burke, the commander of the Warren County Drug Task Force, who spearheaded an investigation codenamed “Operation Bulk Up”. Major Burke dispatched an undercover officer from the Wilmington Police to pose as a member of the YMCA in search of steroids.

Mike Carroll was the only person at the YMCA who knew of the existence of an undercover officer seeking to infiltrate the steroid underground at the local Y. He received secret updates from the Drug Task Force every 4-6 months throughout the course of the two-year investigation. The tip ultimately led to the bust of a large-scale, multi-state steroid distribution organization.

At its conclusion, the Warren County Drug Task Force and the Warren County Prosecutor’s Office announced the indictments of thirty-two people involved in the steroid distribution ring. In total, the co-defendants faced 248 charges that included multiple counts of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, steroid trafficking and steroid possession.

The investigation focused on the manufacturers and distributors of anabolic steroids according to Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell. Steroid users were not the target of the investigation although officials did not hesitate to indicate that competitive bodybuilders and professional athletes were likely among the clients.

Law enforcement officials seized an estimated $600,000 worth of anabolic steroids, $300,000 in cash and vehicles and almost 100 weapons including assault rifles, shotguns and handguns.

“It’s pretty amazing the amount of firearms, and what this organization was doing, which was peddling its poison through out the country, to include Ohio and the Tri-state region,” said Cincinnati ATF Agent Jim Dier.

The size and scope of the steroid-related indictments and the presence of weapons did not deter the Countryside YMCA CEO from speaking openly with the media and taking credit for his role in bringing down the criminal steroid organization.

“It’s our desire to keep this kind of illicit activity out of the community and out of our facility,” Carroll told the press. “I’m delighted that it has culminated in a positive law enforcement action. I guess it takes time as it was my understanding that they were going after the manufacturers and traffickers. It was one of those things that one thing led to another that led to another.”

It took three months of lifting weights at the YMCA before the undercover agent was able to purchase steroids from a steroid dealer at the gym on April 10, 2010. By the end of the year, the dealer became a confidential informant for law enforcement.

This led them to a clandestine underground laboratory (UGL) in Tennessee that manufactured injectable anabolic steroids from raw steroid powders imported from China. Chemist Kenneth Freeman and Jason and Stephanie Sherill of Tullahoma and Kenneth Freeman of Manchester were arrested in connection with the UGL.

Batches of 400 vials of steroids were shipped from the UGL to Ronald Herbort in Ohio who was identified as the ringleader of the steroid distribution organization.

A secondary ringleader identified as Matthew Geraci is alleged to have been a primary distributor for Herbort. Geraci operated a seemingly legitimate business that involved a complex locker system in which buyers and sellers of steroids could deposit and swap steroids for cash while avoiding face-to-face interaction.

“Steroids would be put in your locker, you get a key to your locker, open it up, got your steroids out, put your money in and that’s how this operation started,” according to Major Burke.

Officials told reporters that the organization shipped steroids around the country in addition to selling them locally at the Countryside YMCA in Lebanon and the Urban Active gym in Deerfield Twp. The presence of steroids at these two gyms is clearly not an isolated event. Operation Bulk Up reveals how easily law enforcement can disrupt the steroid trade at any given commercial gym (at least temporarily) if given top priority.

Operation Bulk Up Steroids at the Countryside YMCA

Richter, E. (October 31, 2011). 32 indicted in ‘high-level’ steroid trafficking ring. Retrieved from

Richter, E. (November 1, 2011). Multi-state steroid distribution ring broken up, police say. Retrieved from–1278081.html