As first reported Thursday on the Oak Lawn Leaf Facebook page, an Oak Lawn man, Joseph T. Palermo, has been charged by the federal government for “knowingly and intentionally possessing with intent to distribute a controlled substance, namely, a quantity of anabolic steroids, a schedule III controlled substance”.
According to the federal charges, released on Thursday after Palermo’s arrest at his home, he allegedly was importing steroids from China and distributing the drug to large scale suppliers within the Chicago area for about five years.
The federal complaint claims that the shipments from China arrived in the form of raw liquid or powder, which Palermo manufactured into usable steroids and distributed to large-scale dealers in the Chicago area, according to the charges.
Earlier this month, federal agents in the course of executing a search warrant at Palermo’s Oak Lawn residence discovered a makeshift steroid laboratory in the walk-in closet of a locked bedroom. Inside the closet were approximately 600 empty glass vials, approximately 250 vials filled or partially-filled with suspected liquid steroids, more than 6,000 tablets labeled as anabolic steroids, glass beakers, a hot plate and a digital scale, according to the charges. Agents also discovered more than $9,000 in cash and several firearms, including a 9mm Glock handgun that was concealed under a pad in a sofa.
The arrest of Palermo, age 33, is part of an ongoing investigation that has resulted in the issuance of numerous federal and state search warrants, as well as the initiation of other federal criminal cases, according to the government’s case.
Homeland Security Investigations began investigating a number of individuals, around June of 2014, who are alleged to be involved in the illegal importation and distribution of anabolic steroids and human growth hormone (“HGH”) into the United States from overseas, including China and Hong Kong, in violation of federal criminal laws. These investigations, which remain ongoing, have thus far resulted in the issuance of numerous federal and state search warrants, including a search of Palermo’s residence.
According to the charges, Palermo purchased the steroids online and often wired the money through Western Union. The shipments were sometimes sent to P.O. Boxes that Palermo opened in his name or the names of people whose identities he had found on driver’s licenses mistakenly left behind at a downtown Chicago nightclub where Palermo formerly worked as a bouncer, according to the charges. Palermo estimated that he grossed approximately $2,000 per month through the scheme, according to the government’s case.
In June, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers in San Francisco intercepted a Chinese parcel addressed to a residence Palermo controlled in Northlake. Although the parcel was declared as “Titanium Dioxide,” it contained 359.2 grams of an oily anabolic steroid, according to the charges. In July, CBP officers intercepted a second Chinese shipment, this time containing a powdery anabolic steroid concealed in a tinfoil baggie, according to the charges. It was allegedly addressed to a Palermo-controlled P.O. Box in Elmhurst. In the course of the investigation, agents discovered that Palermo resided in Oak Lawn.
For about six weeks, federal agents also conducted searches of Palermo’s trash which the prosecution claims yielded evidence. The government also secured a search warrant of Palermo’s email account, which the complaint claims shows email communications that support the charges.
Anabolic steroids can be traced back to the 1930’s. Medical experts have warned of the risks of taking steroids other than as prescribed for recovery of some injuries. Some of the risks include high blood pressure, liver damage, and heart damage.
Steroids have been controversial due to their ability to enhance sports performance and allow competitors to gain an unfair advantage. They have been banned by all major sports in the United States.
The charge against Palermo carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine. If convicted, the Court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines. Palermo appeared before a magistrate last week and was reportedly released on his own recognizance.