It's hard to imagine a character less suited to Alex Rodriguez's luxury lifestyle of private jets and South of Fifth condos than the shackled man federal agents led into the DEA's Weston headquarters the morning of August 5.
Yuri Sucart was clad in a baggy white T-shirt, ill-fitting black pants, socks, and sandals. He looked more like a paunchy, bald soccer dad than a guy who'd spent decades in A-Rod's tight inner circle. Yet the truth is, no one was closer to the suspended Yankees superstar through his entire baseball career than his older primo.
Along with Biogenesis owner Tony Bosch, Sucart was arrested last week. Bosch has already admitted to a host of sins, from supplying scores of Major League Baseball players with performance-enhancing drugs to doping up at least 18 high school athletes. Less attention has been paid to Sucart's arrest on six counts of illegally distributing testosterone.
Charges against the pair and five others mark the emphatic coda to a saga that started with a New Times investigation in January 2013 and peaked last summer with the suspension of 15 professional ballplayers tied to Bosch, including a season-long ban for A-Rod.
But Sucart's own remarkable tale shouldn't be overlooked. It's told for the first time in a book I recently wrote with former Miami New Times senior writer Gus Garcia-Roberts, Blood Sport: Alex Rodriguez, Biogenesis and the Quest to End Baseball's Steroid Era.
Sucart's life began spiraling out of control after A-Rod betrayed him in a 2009 doping scandal. In the five years since, he's been mired in a morass of mortgage foreclosures, bankruptcies, failing health, and terrible decisions — including, according to Bosch's records, at least, delivering his own ball-playing teenaged son to Biogenesis. Though Bosch has bonded out, Sucart still sits in federal custody. He's apparently ill, facing deportation to his native Dominican Republic, and is so broke that his family has started an online campaign to fund his legal defense.
"My family has no assets, home, or anywhere to run to, financially speaking, to try and bail out my dad," his daughter, Ashley Sucart, writes in an online plea. "My family and I have been through a lot. The only thing we want is to be at peace."
Sucart was born in the D.R. in 1962, 13 years before Rodriguez. The son of a brother of Lourdes, A-Rod's mom, Yuri bounced among extended family on the island and in New York after a car wreck in the Dominican killed his mother. He spent significant time in the cramped Washington Heights apartment where A-Rod grew up. "He's been with me since I was born," Rodriguez told the Associated Press.
When a young Rodriguez moved to Miami with his mom and developed into one of the top high school prospects in history, his older cousin followed a more prosaic path, bouncing between a job with a water utility in Santo Domingo and a gig as a blacksmith in South Florida. By the time A-Rod was astonishing scouts with monster home runs as a teenaged shortstop for Westminster Christian School, Sucart had moved back to New York with his wife and was eking out a living as an unlicensed gypsy cabdriver.
The cousins stayed in touch, though, and Sucart knew there was a standing offer: When A-Rod's inevitable big-league contract came after his senior year, he could plan on being his full-time gofer.
But on May 13, 1993 — two days after A-Rod's high school career ended with a playoff loss — a previously unreported event upended Sucart's life and set the stage for decades of dependence on his famous relative.
It started in the lobby of a Washington Heights building, where an undercover cop paid $35 for two balls of tin foil filled with crack. As soon as the deal went down, uniformed officers raced around the corner. A few minutes later, officers arrested a man matching the description of one of the crack dealers, the operation's so-called "Boss Man." His real name: Yuri Sucart.
Sucart's legal drama dragged on for almost three years. He swore that police had the wrong guy. And the other drug dealer, 18-year-old Lincoln Daniel Persaud, recanted on the stand after first telling cops Sucart was his accomplice. The jury, though, deadlocked thanks to one holdout who thought Sucart was guilty, and he was sent back behind bars.
In March 1996, Sucart was still in Rikers Island as Rodriguez prepared for his first full Major League season as the Seattle Mariners' starting shortstop, his offer of employment still standing. Sucart soon agreed to plead guilty to felony criminal sale of a controlled substance. He got off with time served.
But it was a stiff price to pay. Sucart was now a felon. Because he had never become a U.S. citizen, his immigration status was iffy. Worst of all, he may well have been innocent. For Blood Sport, we tracked down Persaud in Washington Heights. Now nearing 40, the onetime crack-dealing teen said Sucart was guilty of only one thing: looking like the real "Boss Man."
"What's funny is that if Yuri really was my boss, I would've never said shit," Persaud told us. "But you want me to rat on this dude that's not even really my boss? I would've said he shot JFK if they wanted."
Clear of the courts, Sucart quickly joined A-Rod on the road, and for almost two decades, the pair became inseparable. In clubhouses from Seattle to Dallas to New York, the paunchy Sucart quietly stood in the shadows near his famed cousin's locker, setting up hotel rooms and arranging private travel.
By the time A-Rod earned a record deal in 2001 to play for the Texas Rangers, Sucart had a secret job — getting PEDs for his cousin. The world wouldn't know about Sucart's shadow role until long after A-Rod left the Rangers to play third base and win two more MVPs with the New York Yankees.
But in 2009, Sports Illustrated broke the news that Rodriguez had failed a supposedly anonymous 2003 steroid test while playing for the Rangers. That news changed the slugger's image forever and probably axed his Hall of Fame chances. It was also the beginning of a long, dark road for Sucart.
A-Rod called the drug he took "boli" and told the world that Sucart had ferried it up from the Dominican Republic. The news sparked a firestorm, and Sucart roasted in the tabloid flames. Reporters stalked his South Miami home. MLB officials grilled A-Rod and quickly banned Sucart from all clubhouses.
It couldn't have been worse timing for Sucart. As A-Rod's star had risen with the Yankees, his older cousin had bought up real estate in South Florida. But he'd lost heavily in the postrecession bubble. By 2008, three properties owned by Sucart were in foreclosure, with mortgages totaling more than $1 million.
Through it all, Sucart was a good soldier, never once giving an interview to the media. But his friends weren't so sanguine. "He practically raised Alex at times," said his buddy Alex Ball. "And he got F'd."
Despite the turmoil, Sucart still traveled with A-Rod. Records from Rodriguez's business show the slugger even upped Sucart's salary from $60,000 a year to $100,000.
Sucart, who was trying to lose weight, met Tony Bosch on a referral. But he quickly realized the man called "Dr. T" (though he had only an unrecognized degree from a Belizean school) could do much more. When Bosch provided small lozenges loaded with testosterone, Sucart quickly called A-Rod. The drugs had given him an "unbelievable sense of energy recovery," he enthused, according to a document from A-Rod's later arbitration case with the league.
In July 2010, Bosch met A-Rod for the first time in a Tampa hotel room during a Yankees road trip (not coincidentally, at the precise moment Rodriguez had been stuck at 599 home runs for two weeks) with Sucart in tow.
Soon Bosch began designing elaborate regimens of human growth hormone and testosterone for the star, custom-built to beat MLB's tests. For the rest of that season and the start of 2011, Sucart ferried drugs and cash between the faux doc and the superstar — even disposing of syringes in a lobby bathroom after one meeting, according to Bosch's later testimony in A-Rod's arbitration.
Then Sucart began recruiting other players for Bosch. A-Rod's Yankees teammate Francisco Cervelli (who was later suspended 50 games over his Biogenesis ties) was brought in by Sucart, a source told us. Bosch's records also show a more disturbing client connection: Yuri's son, a budding baseball player at A-Rod's alma mater, Westminster Christian, appears at least five times in Bosch's records, including under a heading labeled "H.S."
Then in May 2011, tabloid reporters spotted Sucart in the team hotel during a road trip to San Francisco. The bad press riled A-Rod, who promised, "I'm handling it." When A-Rod got wind of his cousin's recruiting activities for Bosch, said a source quoted in Blood Sport, he was even angrier; he began to feel his cousin was mismanaging his money as well. "Alex didn't feel like he could trust the guy," a source said.
And on Thanksgiving Day 2011, A-Rod officially fired his cousin. The move came a few months after Sucart had filed for bankruptcy, listing more than $1.6 million in debts, most over foreclosures.
Bosch's clinic closed in late 2012, but Sucart's life continued its downward slide. In February 2013, Sucart even put a 2009 Yankees championship ring that A-Rod had given him up for auction online. It garnered $50,398.88. A few months later, Sucart's attorney at the time, John Ruiz, told reporters he was considering suing A-Rod for $5 million.
The suit never materialized, and Sucart laid low through the Biogenesis carnage that led to a record suspension for his cousin. Keeping true to his longstanding refusal to talk to the media, he ignored multiple calls and several letters seeking comment.
And A-Rod didn't abandon Sucart. Recent court documents show Sucart living in a $399,000 Kendall house owned by Rodriguez.
But now, criminal charges mean big trouble for Sucart. In a sworn statement entered into his federal case Friday, Bosch has told prosecutors that a "majority" of the pro athletes he treated were recruited by Sucart and another codefendant. What's more, Bosch says Sucart was his partner in a company called Scores Sports Management, which would haul syringes of testosterone to the Dominican Republic to youth baseball farms with prospects between 12 and 17 years old. The kids would be doped up before a June draft with big signing bonuses on the line.
Not only does he face ten years in prison, but deportation also looms again. At a first appearance in Miami's federal courthouse, Sucart sat in his rumpled white T-shirt and glared at prosecutors while listening through a translating headset. The judge mentioned he might be transferred to Krome Detention Center because of his immigration situation. And while Bosch posted $100,000 bond — and continues to enjoy legal support from MLB, according to his attorney — Sucart couldn't afford the $50,000 to leave jail.
His family, meanwhile, just hopes he survives the ordeal. "My dad's a very sick man," Ashley Sucart writes in the online campaign to raise money for his defense. "Although he has only 35 percent of his heart working I've never met someone so giving and loving. Anyone who knows my dad can vouch and say he's always had good intentions in everything he does..." She continues with a line that seems aimed at A-Rod: "...so much so he is willing to take the heat for any one of his family members just so that they won't face any consequence."
Zachary Fagenson contributed to this story.