HOUSTON—Several dozen Houston-area men and women were taken into custody Wednesday in what is likely the largest illegal steroids bust this part of Texas has ever seen.
They dubbed the operation "Pharmacia de Juicy Phruit." The nationwide investigation started in 2006 with an informant's tip in Fort Bend County.
They had arrested at least 66 suspects by Wednesday afternoon and more are being sought.
Investigators say the suspects were distributing anabolic steroids, human growth hormones, ecstasy, vicodin, xanax, codeine syrup and viagra.
"The steroids in some cases cause pain and other problems which the vicodin and Viagra is necessary to counteract," said Fort Bend County Sheriff Milton Wright. Wright said they also confiscated 50 marijuana plants at one home.
The list of suspects includes professional bodybuilders, gym owners, personal trainers and even pharmacists.
Dozens of suspects were arrested in the pre-dawn raid in Fort Bend and Harris counties. Wright called it a "loosely-knit organization" that operated out of gyms and fitness centers in Fort Bend and Harris counties.
"It's one of those things where they've got their friends on speed-dial. When they need a certain product, they know who to call," he said.
Wright said 49 suspects face state charges and 17 face federal charges ranging from manufacturing to selling, possessing and distributing illegal drugs.
The suspects were taken to a staging area at the Fort Bend County Fairgrounds. They were processed then taken to jail.
Officers confiscated pills, what is believed to be marijuana plants, cash and other items during the raids at several area homes.
At least some of the steroids were being manufactured in the Heights in North Houston, according to authorities.
Investigators say most of the chemicals used to make the drugs came from China.
Officials say simultaneous arrests took place in Dallas, California and Georgia.
The investigation and operation is being led by the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office and the Drug Enforcement Agency. Sheriff Wright called it the largest narcotics bust in his county's history.
"A lot of people don't think there's much danger in the steroids, but there's a lot of broken families, broken homes, people hurt that are caused by illegal use of steroids we never know about because of the many side effects...," Wright said. "
Officers from Houston, Pearland, Richmond, Rosenberg, the Harris County Sheriff's Office, the DEA, the U.S. Marshal's Office and several other area agencies joined in the raid.