DEA seizes steroids, arrests Genentech employee

Federal drug agents arrested a Burlingame man who worked at a drug manufacturer in South San Francisco on Thursday for allegedly supplying human growth hormone to his relative’s muscle shop in San Jose.

The Drug Enforcement Agency seized 50 bottles of HGH and 13 vials of steroids in relation to the arrest of Brandon Tomlinson, 44, who was allegedly supplying his relative, 38-year-old Lance Tomlinson, with an HGH-containing drug called Protropin. Brandon Tomlinson worked at Genentech, which legally manufactures the drug, the DEA said.

Lance Tomlinson, owner of Max Muscle Store in San Jose, allegedly had been receiving the drug through an unknown means from Brandon Tomlinson, possibly as far back as early 2006, said Michael Chapman, assistant special agent in charge.

An undercover agent bought 20 bottles of HGH from Max Muscle employee Jeffrey Coffron, 33, in July. Coffron and Lance Tomlinson were also arrested Thursday at their San Jose residence.

The FDA Forensic Chemistry Center verified that Protropin contained a form of HGH and that Genentech was the only company legally manufacturing this drug in the United States.

Chapman said most of the anabolic steroid busts in this country come from underground labs or are smuggled in from countries such as Mexico.

The arrests were made as part of the culmination of Operation Raw Deal, an 18-month international investigation targeting the global underground markets in anabolic steroids, HGH and insulin growth factor.

It represented the largest steroid enforcement action in U.S. history, with 56 labs and 11.5 million doses of the drugs being seized in the United States, agents said.

“It’s a pretty significant problem. That’s why the DEA is attacking it with some force,” Chapman said.

All three men will be charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute HGH. The maximum penalty will be five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Brandon Tomlinson and Coffron were released on bail after appearing in U.S. District Court in San Jose on Thursday, while Lance Tomlinson was still in the custody of U.S. Marshals on Monday.

The drug is approved for use in children and adults with growth-hormone deficiency and growth failure associated with serious diseases, Genentech spokeswoman Caroline Pecquet said.

Genentech is working with authorities to determine the source of the drug distributed by Tomlinson, but would not comment on his employment or on the charges.

Max Muscle Sport and Fitness Corp. officials and Brandon Tomlinson’s attorney did not return calls for comment Monday.

Drug seizures

Items seized Thursday in the raid in which three people were arrested:

» 50 bottles of HGH

» 13 vials of steroids

» 34 grams of crystal methamphetamine

» Several types of unlabeled pills

» Unknown amount of money

» 15 marijuana plants

Total seized in federal South Bay investigation in which five people were arrested:

» 73 bottles of HGH

» 79 vials of steroids

» 44 grams of crystal methamphetamine

» Several types of unlabeled pills

» Unknown amount of money

» 15 marijuana plants

Agencies involved in the arrests of Coffron and the Tomlinsons:

» Santa Clara Police Department

» U.S. Postal Inspection Service in San Jose and San Diego

» Food and Drug Administration

» U.S. Marshals Service

» U.S. State Department

» FBI

mrosenberg@examiner.com

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