The fallout continues for a case stemming from a federal investigation that took place in February 2017. The probe led to an indictment in 2019 involving Blackstone Labs and several others.
In 2012 Phillip Braun founded and operated Blackstone Labs LLC, a Boca Raton-based sports and dietary supplements retailer. Braun, along with his former business partner Aaron Singerman, both pleaded guilty in November 2021 to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and to selling unapproved new drugs.
US District Judge William P. Dimitrouleas of the Southern District of Florida sentenced Braun to 54 months in prison and ordered him to forfeit $3 million. The court also ordered Blackstone Labs to pay $1.2 million in forfeiture. Last month Singerman was ordered to forfeit $2.9 million.
Anthony Ventrella operated a series of companies that manufactured many of the illegal products marketed and sold by Blackstone. Ventrella, who pleaded guilty in September 2021 to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud as part of the scheme, was sentenced to 13 months in prison. The court also ordered Ventrella’s company, Ventech Labs, to forfeit equipment used to make the illegal products.
“Selling controlled substances and unapproved drugs falsely labeled as dietary supplements is illegal and potentially dangerous,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The Department of Justice will work with law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute individuals and companies who disregard public safety to make a profit.”
“Drug products that are disguised as supplements can pose a serious risk to the health of U.S. consumers,” said Special Agent in Charge Justin C. Fielder of the Food and Drug Administration Office of Criminal Investigations (FDA OCI) Miami Field Office. “We will continue to investigate and bring to justice those who jeopardize public health.”
The blame game
Braun remained at Blackstone as the CEO. In 2016, Singerman left day-to-day operations at the company but was still an owner until early 2018.
Currently, Jared Wheat owns two-thirds of Blackstone Labs and was not involved in the company during the time it was engaged in illegal activity. A sentencing memo filed last month on the FLSD docket noted that Wheat loaned Blackstone Labs “millions of dollars in an attempt to keep the company alive and repair the damage done by the previous owners’ criminal behavior.”
In a separate sentencing memo, Singerman’s lawyers pointed the finger at Braun.
“Mr. Singerman does not and cannot contest the seriousness of the charges to which he has now pleaded guilty. He was involved in a conspiracy to distribute anabolic steroids through Blackstone Labs and other related companies and he participated in mislabeling, marketing, and distributing certain compounds as ´dietary supplements’ when actually those compounds were unapproved new drugs.”
More defendants, more problems
In total, eight individuals and three companies were convicted in connection with the activities of Blackstone Labs. James Boccuzzi, who was convicted by a jury on Dec. 9, 2021 of one count of conspiracy to defraud the FDA and one count of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, is scheduled to be sentenced on March 11.