Paulo Berejuk's deep voice cracks over the phone from southern Brazil. He now lives in Santa Catarina, which boasts hundreds of miles of white-sand beaches crowned with lushly jungled hillsides. But to Berejuk, it feels like a prison, worse than the federal pen in North Carolina where he finished an 18-month sentence this past April.
He was deported from the United States, where he had spent 20 years, leaving behind his three children, including a 31-year-old daughter fighting cancer. There's one man he blames for it all: Tony Bosch, the renegade owner of the notorious anti-aging clinic Biogenesis who was caught running America's largest professional sports doping operation.
"To me, he's just a piece of shit," Berejuk says. "He destroyed me, and he destroyed my family."
Berejuk is far from blameless, though. For years, he sold testosterone from his garage in Kendall. He was nicknamed "the Chemist" by reporters covering the case after the feds busted Bosch and his associates following a 2013 Miami New Times investigation.
But in his first-ever interview, Berejuk alleges the feds inflated his role in the case. He argues it's unfair that Bosch, the drug ring's mastermind, is now free and rebuilding his life in Miami while he's been banned from returning to see his kids in America.
"They've treated me like the worst narco or terrorist, when I had no idea what Tony Bosch was really doing," Berejuk says. "Meanwhile, Bosch suffered hardly at all."
Berejuk's story adds new depth to Miami's historic steroid case and shines a new light on Bosch's customers — including, according to Berejuk, a number of Miami SWAT officers. Berejuk also raises new questions about the feds' prosecution, which he says ignored his offers to go after the real steroid suppliers: the pharmacies and licensed doctors who provide drugs with no questions asked to shady clinics such as Biogenesis.
Berejuk was born in 1963 in Santa Catarina, a Brazilian state famed for natural beauty and an ethnically German population. His grandparents came from Ukraine, and he spent his childhood on their farm eating elaborate Eastern European meals. His parents owned a bridal shop and an office supply store. They encouraged him to pursue martial arts, in which he excelled.
He graduated from law school when he was just 23 years old and then married Eliane, his 18-year-old hometown sweetheart, and found work with one of Brazil's biggest magazine companies. He first came to Florida in the late '80s, when the company sent him on a sales trip, and visited again a few years later to train with a martial arts guru.
"I spent three months in Miami, and then I loved the place," Berejuk says. "I said, 'This seems like a good place to move and to raise my kids.'?"
In 1995, he persuaded Eliane to move to South Florida after spending a second honeymoon here. At the time, the couple had three young children — 4-year-old Paola, 7-year-old Danny, and 10-year-old Tatiana. In Miami, the parents scraped for work; Eliane cleaned houses and went to beauty school. Paulo, who bears a striking resemblance to Bruce Willis with his bald dome and neat goatee, started a business shipping medical equipment back to Brazil. They later opened a beauty salon together in South Beach.
But both the salon and medical supply business eventually closed, and Berejuk hustled to provide for his family. "He made the sacrifices he had to in order to make sure his family was secure," his daughter Paola wrote in a letter to the court. "While I went to expensive schools, he shopped at JC Penney and saved money for family vacations."
Berejuk's slide into the gray world of performance-enhancing drugs began around 2005 with research into what he thought was an innocuous niche industry. As a martial arts student with an insatiable curiosity, he'd become fascinated with nutrition and bodybuilding.
"I started studying and learning about peptides," Berejuk says. "Almost no one was studying them at that time."
Peptides are amino acids that can spark the body to create more human growth hormone (HGH), which can boost strength, speed, and recovery and can trigger other muscle-building properties. Most professional sports leagues, including Major League Baseball, have recently banned some peptides.
But from Berejuk's perspective, there was a major advantage to peptides in 2005. "At that time, the FDA had no regulations on peptides," Berejuk says. So he began buying peptides in bulk from a New Orleans supplier. Soon he met Dr. Carlos Nazir, a urologist who had lost his medical license and served two years in prison after pleading guilty in 2002 to bilking Medicaid out of more than $1 million. Nazir had found a new niche: advising anti-aging clinics around Miami. Among his clients were Tony Bosch and his father, Dr. Pedro Bosch, who invited Berejuk to his office to discuss peptides.
"He looked like a serious doctor," Berejuk says of the elder Bosch.
Berejuk was less impressed with Tony, who had never been a licensed doctor. But when the younger Bosch opened a clinic in a South Miami tanning salon, Berejuk agreed to supply him with peptides. When Bosch told him he'd found an investor and wanted to expand, Berejuk flew his supplier to town. They met at a Brickell restaurant.
"We'd been talking for maybe ten minutes when he grabbed a credit card from his pocket and his girlfriend puts a line of cocaine right there on the card at the table," Berejuk says. "We stood up right there and walked out. I realized, wow, this guy is really crazy."
Bosch had also given Roberto, a young relative of Berejuk's, a job helping out at the clinic. (Berejuk asked that the relative's real name not be used because he was never charged in connection with the case.)
New Times cover stories about the Biogenesis scandal.
Courtesy of Miami New Times
A few months after that Brickell meeting, Roberto told Berejuk he was going to quit. "He told me Bosch sent him to a place downtown to inject drugs into a bunch of cops, all on the SWAT team," Berejuk claims. Roberto refused to go, so he never saw any cops inject the drugs, which Bosch had preloaded into syringes in plastic bags.
New Times has previously reported that at least two Miami Police sergeants were Biogenesis customers and that former employees claimed they routinely treated other cops in the clinic. There were no police arrested in the scandal, however.
Berejuk says Roberto's experience spooked him.
That was around 2009, Berejuk says. He didn't know it, but by that time, Bosch was secretly turning his clinic — which later moved to a storefront a stone's throw from Alex Rodriguez Park at the University of Miami — into a front for selling steroids and HGH to scores of big-league ballplayers, including Rodriguez himself, as well as dozens of high-school athletes.
In fact, Berejuk says he never learned about that conspiracy because he quickly cut off his business with Bosch after the cocaine incident — even though Bosch still owed him $27,000.
This is where Berejuk's account diverges from the case federal prosecutors presented in court. The way the feds tell it, Berejuk in 2007 began concocting testosterone, HGH, and other banned drugs from "raw materials" in his Kendall garage. As Bosch became a primary supplier to pro athletes, Berejuk became his supplier, the feds say.
Berejuk admits he expanded beyond simply selling peptides, which later came under more strict federal regulation. Through suppliers, he had also began procuring the ingredients to make testosterone from internet companies, mostly in China. But he disputes he was a master chemist — anyone could buy and mix the chemicals, he says. He's adamant he didn't knowingly sell to Bosch or know anything about his secret business doping pro athletes and high-schoolers.
Instead, after the incident at the restaurant, Bosch persuaded a friend — Jorge "Oggi" Velazquez, who was also later convicted in the scheme — to act as a middleman. Velazquez owned his own anti-aging clinic. Berejuk believed he was selling to him.
Berejuk claims he learned the truth August 5, 2014, when federal agents swarmed his home on a quiet street in Kendall as his horrified wife and oldest daughter looked on. Their kitchen was full of tins of homemade protein brownies because Berejuk's daughter was trying to start a business and was testing the recipe.
"They thought they were going to break down my door and find this big operation, but I had nothing," Berejuk says, laughing. "They thought those were drug brownies. They confiscated thousands of them."
Berejuk was hauled to the federal jail in downtown Miami. He had already decided to cooperate. He hadn't sold anything directly to Bosch in years. But Berejuk's heart skipped a beat as he walked into the jail. He immediately recognized the guard working the sign-in desk as a Biogenesis client.
And it got worse.
"I told them: 'Look, I bought raw materials and supplies for 15 years. I'll give you all the suppliers, you can go to them, subpoena their invoices, and see who's buying steroids. You can get everyone doing wrong,'?" Berejuk says.
The result: "Well, here I am in Brazil," he says with an ironic laugh. "They don't want to know. It's easier to pretend that I'm the only guy who was giving drugs to Tony Bosch."
Indeed, not a single licensed doctor or pharmacy was ever charged in the Biogenesis case. Berejuk says he agreed to plead guilty to the feds' charges only because they had a trump card: They threatened to charge his relative Roberto for the short time he had worked with Bosch.
"I did this to keep him out of trouble," Berejuk says. "Look, I know I broke the law. I deserved to do time. I accept that completely."
What he cannot accept, he says, is his deportation and lifetime ban from returning. His role in Biogenesis was his first criminal offense — unlike Bosch, who had multiple DUIs, lawsuits for missed child support payments, and even a positive showing of cocaine in a drug test while awaiting federal trial.
Yet Bosch walked out of a halfway house in October and is now a free man in Miami. A few months after Berejuk was released from prison this past April, he was shipped to Brazil. Back in the States, his oldest daughter, Tatiana, is fighting melanoma. With most of his money spent on his legal defense, he has little left to help his children.
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"Me and Paulo and our family are very close," Eliane says by phone from Santa Catarina, where she has joined her husband. "All we want is the chance for Paulo to be able to visit for a few days to see his daughter."
Berejuk takes back the phone and echoes that plea. He regrets what happened, he says, but he's not a steroid mastermind — he was just a small cog in a barely regulated anti-aging industry that still runs rampant across Florida.
"I don't know any athletes. I never met Alex Rodriguez," Berejuk says. "I don't understand why my life was ruined and Tony Bosch suffered nothing."