Florida Investigator: I Warned Major League Baseball Not to Buy Stolen Records | The Daily Pulp | South Florida | Broward Palm Beach New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Broward-Palm Beach, Florida

Longform

Florida Investigator: I Warned Major League Baseball Not to Buy Stolen Records

Inside a conference room at Major League Baseball's modernist Manhattan headquarters, Rob Manfred stared down Alex Rodriguez. The fate of both men -- the future commissioner of baseball and the era's greatest slugger -- hung in the balance. Rodriguez was furiously fighting a record suspension for buying steroids from a Miami clinic called Biogenesis. It was October 17, 2013, and Manfred was being grilled about how MLB had obtained its evidence.

The gap-toothed, razor-sharp lawyer had directed baseball's probe of the Yankees' third baseman. He told the phalanx of attorneys gathered around the table that baseball's investigative team -- a crew of former cops, mostly from the NYPD -- had purchased clinic records from a South Florida felon named Gary Jones. Ears perked up when Manfred admitted to signing off on $125,000 in payouts to Jones, who went by the pseudonym "Bobby from Boca."

But there was a bigger question: Where had Jones gotten the files they hoped would prove Rodriguez had illegally juiced?

See also: Tony Bosch and Biogenesis: MLB Steroid Scandal

"Did you know or believe that any of the documents that you purchased from Bobby from Boca -- Mr. Jones, Gary Jones -- had been stolen?" an attorney asked.

Manfred didn't hesitate. "No," he said. "No, not at the time."

But former Florida Department of Health investigator Jerome Hill now says he specifically warned Manfred's underlings about stolen records. Though he can't prove the information was passed on to Manfred, Hill says that weeks before MLB bought the documents, he emphatically warned a top baseball investigator that they had been taken from a whistleblower's car in a theft. Hill says he added that the missing documents were vital evidence in his criminal probe into the clinic.

Yet Manfred and his team bought them anyway. And the records were never returned to the lawman.

Hill's allegations -- told on the record for the first time to Miami New Times -- raise serious questions about the game's new commissioner and how his staff proved its case against Rodriguez and his fellow Biogenesis clientele. "I warned them very specifically that these records were stolen and they were important to a state investigation," he says.

MLB officials strongly dispute Hill's claims. Executive vice president Dan Halem acknowledges Hill spoke with an investigator named Ed Dominguez but says he passed along no specific warnings that would let baseball know Jones was selling stolen records.

"Jerome Hill has an axe to grind against Major League Baseball," Halem says. "We never knowingly bought stolen records."

That's not Hill's only jaw-dropping allegation.

The fiery, headstrong ex-cop is a colorful figure who played a central role in an explosive case that's already resulted in 15 baseball suspensions and ten federal indictments. The clinic's ringleader, a fake doctor named Tony Bosch, is scheduled to plead guilty this Thursday and faces up to a decade in prison.

In addition to his claims about Manfred, Hill also says:

  • Miami Police officers bought drugs from Bosch, and steroids connected to the case disappeared from MPD's evidence room.
  • The Florida Department of Health knew in 2009 that Bosch was illegally selling drugs to prominent athletes, including Dodgers slugger Manny Ramirez, but never notified Major League Baseball.
  • Biogenesis' clientele included a Miami-Dade judge, numerous attorneys, and several professional athletes whose names have not been reported. Federal prosecutors now have that list.

Hill, though, is not just a good cop shut down by the Man. He has a record of complaints against him and a whipsaw temper. In 2008, he was run out of the Baltimore Police Department after punching another cop, and he was recently arrested for hitting his girlfriend in Broward County. He left the Florida DOH last month amid another internal investigation.

But Hill's allegations in the Biogenesis case are backed up by interviews, public records, and Bosch's own files. His allegations tarnish the historic steroid investigation overseen by Manfred, a bureaucrat who's barely been vetted by the national media. More significant, it could throw a new wrench into the federal case against the Biogenesis crew.

"Major League Baseball hindered my investigation," Hill says.


Jerome Hill, a short, muscular 35-year-old cop with almond-shaped eyes, switched off all the lights in his cruiser and slowly rolled up an alley behind a block of derelict row houses near Patterson Park. An hour earlier on January 25, 2008, an armed man had robbed a resident of this drug-riddled corner of Baltimore, and Hill was on the lookout for the suspect.

That's when the cop spotted a man clad in a baggy white T-shirt and jeans lingering on the corner. The figure quickly turned and walked away from the cruiser. Bingo, Hill thought. He sped down the block, flipped on his brights, then stopped and jumped out. "Show me your hands!" Hill hollered, moving toward the man.

When the suspect fumbled for something in his pocket, Hill lashed out. His fist nailed the man square in the throat. Gasping for air, he crumpled to the ground.

Several other cops rushed in from a van hidden in the dark around the corner. "No!" they screamed. "This is just a test!"

"He's a good cop... He had drug dealers on the run."

The punch was pure instinct, borne of years of patrolling the same Baltimore streets that inspired gritty scenes in The Wire. But the man writhing on the ground wasn't a robbery suspect. He was an undercover internal affairs officer placed on the corner because of complaints about Hill's aggressive tactics. Within hours, the attack landed Hill on the nightly news. He was charged with felony assault and pilloried by Mayor Sheila Dixon in the morning's Baltimore Sun, where her spokesman bemoaned cops "who aren't committed to the crime fight."

KEEP NEW TIMES BROWARD-PALM BEACH FREE... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Tim Elfrink is an award-winning investigative reporter, the managing editor of the Miami New Times and the co-author of "Blood Sport: Alex Rodriguez and the Quest to End Baseball's Steroid Era." Since 2008, he's written in-depth pieces on police corruption, fatal shootings and social justice issues across South Florida. He's won the George Polk Award and has been a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink

Latest Stories