- Mike Fish
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BOCA RATON, Fla. -- The high-stakes drama that is the Alex Rodriguez vs. Major League Baseball arbitration hearing begins anew Monday in New York, with Rodriguez's team of lawyers on offense.
And while the credibility of Tony Bosch -- the founder of the Biogenesis clinic that is at the center of the performance-enhancing drugs scandal -- will continue to be a target of the Rodriguez attack, so too will be the patient records, billing receipts and handwritten doping regimens on documents taken from Biogenesis.
Without those records, the Biogenesis scandal and its resulting suspension of Rodriguez, Ryan Braun and a dozen others may not have ever taken flight.
By now, followers of the scandal know that investigators for Major League Baseball and Rodriguez have thrown tens of thousands of dollars at potential witnesses and resorted to various strong-arm tactics in pursuit of the clinic records. "Outside the Lines" reported Friday that MLB's pursuit of a set of the documents impeded a Florida Department of Health investigation into Bosch's practicing medicine even though he was not a doctor.
Rodriguez's team is expected to call at least 10 people as witnesses in an effort to get his 211-game suspension overturned, though none is compelled to actually appear on his behalf. The list includes baseball commissioner Bud Selig, New York Yankees president Randy Levine and MLB investigator Dan Mullin. But it also includes a former friend of Biogenesis whistleblower Porter Fischer named Gary Jones, who has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from MLB and Rodriguez investigators.
Jones, who is unlikely to appear in person, has previously provided an affidavit to the Rodriguez team. He is a key character in the Biogenesis saga that has ended up a tangled web weaved around a betrayal of friends, checkbook wars, carefully crafted media leaks, and an on-again local burglary investigation. The setting of it all: South Florida, the home of Biogenesis before it closed and where clinics selling testosterone and other anti-aging regimens remain the rage.
"You couldn't make this stuff up," a source close to the case said. "Just one character after another."
While at least a few other Biogenesis employees had access to clinic files and also took them, Fischer had the "mother lode," a source close to the investigation said.
In an interview with "Outside the Lines" in July, Fischer said he was a client of Bosch's for two years. Fischer, who worked in marketing, said he had offered to start a marketing campaign for Biogenesis and that Bosch responded by asking him to invest in the company.
Fischer said he gave Bosch $4,000 in September 2012 with the promise he would get $4,800 in return. Fischer was named the company's marketing director and was part of Biogenesis' small crew of staffers. He said he received $1,200 from Bosch, but then the payments stopped.
After being rebuffed by Bosch to get his money back, Fischer said he sought the counsel of a friend and former Bosch associate, Pete Carbone, who ran a Coral Gables tanning salon. Fischer said he told Carbone in October 2012 he wanted to get back at Bosch over the lack of payment, and Carbone suggested Fischer copy files from Biogenesis and use them to expose Bosch's illegal dealings.
Fischer liked the idea. So in early November last year, Fischer said, he copied files onto computer flash drives. He gave one drive to Carbone, so he wouldn't be the only one with a copy, Fischer said. Fischer also had been meeting off and on for a few weeks with a reporter from the Miami New Times, a weekly publication.
By late January, word had gotten around that Fischer was talking with the reporter and that Fischer might expose the clinic and ballplayers.
Sources close to the investigation said Jorge "Oggi" Velasquez, an associate of Bosch's and member of Rodriguez's South Florida circle, found out about Fischer having documents and the upcoming newspaper expose and dispatched Carbone to retrieve the original set of documents from Fischer. Velasquez, who has declined to be interviewed by "Outside the Lines," also worked unsuccessfully to muzzle Bosch before he ultimately agreed to cooperate with baseball, sources said.
Velasquez, Fischer, Pete Carbone, his brother Anthony and Bosch knew each other because Velasquez had at one point operated a wellness clinic out of a room in the Carbones' tanning salon in Coral Gables. Fischer said he was a patient when Bosch also briefly set up shop there, dispensing testosterone and growth hormone out of the facility. Later, Velasquez's name showed up in records reviewed by "Outside the Lines" as a source of medicines for other Bosch clinics.
Fischer said that on Jan. 26 -- when the first media reports about MLB investigating Bosch came out and a few days before the New Times story was published -- he gave an original, hard-copy set of the documents to Carbone. Fischer said he was panicked, and he had been told by Carbone if he gave printed documents to him that Carbone could get Fischer's money back. Carbone gave him $4,000 -- more than the $3,600 he was owed by Bosch. Fischer said he assumed the money came from Bosch. When he asked later what Carbone did with that set of documents, Fischer said Carbone told him he gave them to Rodriguez's camp.
After the Miami New Times story broke listing players' names, the Major League Baseball and Rodriguez investigations intensified. Though Fischer's name had not appeared publicly, he said he began to feel pressure as the source of the documents.
Major League Baseball investigators tracked down Fischer, who had fled town. He sold a single-page sample of the documents to an MLB investigator for $5,000. (Fischer would later reject a $125,000 offer from MLB for his entire set of documents, saying he needed more money to start his life anew in another city. He never got another offer.)
Fischer told "Outside the Lines" he felt isolated in his predicament, and as such had told a friend in the tanning business named Gary Jones he had taken documents from Biogenesis.
Jones, a 54-year-old tanning bed repairman who has a state and federal criminal past dating back three decades, would end up selling two sets of Biogenesis documents to Major League Baseball for a total of $125,000, multiple sources have said. The first sale occurred March 20 -- Fischer said he suspects Jones got that set of documents from Pete Carbone.
That March 20 transaction with Major League Baseball is right out of a John Grisham novel: Jones hunkered down at a two-person table across from Dan Mullin, the MLB security chief and former New York City police deputy chief, in the now-shuttered Cosmos Diner in Pompano Beach, multiple sources told "Outside the Lines." Jones dressed casually in khaki shorts and dark blue polo shirt, a water bottle in front of him.
Unbeknownst to MLB security at the time, two friends of Jones sat at a nearby table, sources said. One videotaped the meeting on his iPhone.
Fischer said he had no knowledge of that meeting. For his part, he was cooperating with Florida Department of Health investigators, bent on exposing what he deemed Bosch's illegal operation. For safe-keeping, he said he had stashed yet another set of Biogenesis documents with his father in Ocala -- 300 miles northwest of Miami. State investigator Jerome Hill requested the documents, and Fischer -- fearful he would be followed -- rented a car to go get the four boxes.
Fischer would head to his father's house four days after Jones got paid at Cosmos.
Records show Fischer texted Jones, whom Fischer said knew exactly why he was traveling to Ocala, on his way back from his father's. Fischer said Jones asked if he would stop by Anthony Carbone's tanning salon in Boca Raton to try a spray-tanning lotion he was developing with a California-based partner. "He wanted me to market it for him," Fischer said. "It was, 'Dude, I want you to try it. You are a tanning expert.'"
That Sunday morning, a few minutes before noon, he pulled up and saw Jones standing beside his white van -- parked behind Boca Tanning Club. Fischer parked his rented silver Toyota Corolla a spot away. He remembers shooting the breeze briefly with Jones and Anthony Carbone, before heading into a tanning booth to try his friend's new spray.
When he returned to his car about 40 minutes later, the trunk was open. Glass from the shattered passenger-side window was spread about the pavement.
According to a police report about the burglary, gone were the boxes of patient files, including three notebooks compiled by clinic nurses and a former Bosch business partner. Also gone: a notebook computer, cell phone and a loaded Beretta .32 caliber pistol. Left behind was a 12-gauge shotgun inside a cardboard rifle box.
Also shattered was the driver's side window of the van driven by Jones. Gone was a Dell laptop computer. Unlike Fischer, police records state, Jones "did not wish to file a report of the incident."
Less than three weeks after the break-in, records indicate that Hill, the Florida Department of Health investigator, alerted police to a New York Times report that the MLB commissioner's office paid someone for clinic documents.
That person? Jones.
In a rare moment of agreement, sources close to both MLB and Rodriguez's camp told "Outside the Lines" they believe Jones was assisted by the Carbones. After both document buys, Jones drove immediately to the gated community where one of the brothers lives, a source told "Outside the Lines."
Anthony Carbone, 30, didn't respond to multiple messages left for him. His brother, Pete, 33, declined interview requests, saying at one point, "I have flied as much under the radar as possible. I want to continue to do that."
It was Pete Carbone, however, who showed investigators for Rodriguez a short video, recorded on a phone, of Jones exchanging the first set of documents to MLB for $100,000, a source close to the case said. The same source said that led the Rodriguez camp to Jones, who provided those investigators an affidavit, and, in return, received a $200,000 refundable deposit for video snippets of the first document exchange. Sources said he was promised an additional $100,000 if or when the video is delivered in its entirety.
"The video is entrusted to some IT person who is trying to take it off the phone, because Gary Jones kept insisting on protecting the people whose phone it was," said a source, explaining the delay.
Since the document exchanges, Fischer has been silenced by ongoing state and federal investigations, though he indicated his frustration with old friends having gone silent and nowhere to be found.
The obvious thought is they parlayed the Holy Grail of documents into more than $300,000, between monies paid by MLB and Rodriguez's camp. And, while Fischer swears he never saw a dime of it, suspicions linger -- at least with MLB -- that he is somehow knee-deep in it all.
"To know Pete Carbone and Gary Jones and these people are laughing all the way to the bank -- that infuriates me," Fischer said. "This is not going away. I don't care how old I am, it ain't going away. Somebody needs to make this right. Either the law needs to make this right or the court system or the public needs to make it right. It is wrong."
The Boca Raton police investigation into the car break-in was declared "inactive" on May 20, even though DNA evidence from blood found on Fischer's car hadn't been returned from processing. It's still not back. Police reopened the case three weeks ago after learning that baseball had acknowledged paying Jones $125,000 for documents.
Without records taken from the Biogenesis of America clinic in Florida, the Biogenesis scandal and its resulting suspension of Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun and a dozen others may not have ever taken flight.