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Ex-Lebanon Correctional officers indicted in steroids case

Materials ordered from China and assembled in officer’s home, indictment says.

By Laura A. Bischoff - Columbus bureau

Two former lieutenants at Lebanon Correctional Institution, including a former prison Officer of the Year, are accused of manufacturing, using and selling illegal anabolic steroids outside the prison walls.

Anthony G. Conn, 41, of Miamisburg, and Brian M. Bendel, 43, of Somerville in Butler County, were arrested Monday on 70 criminal charges. A Warren County grand jury indicted them on Friday.

The Warren County Drug Task Force conducted a nine-month investigation into illegal steroid use, distribution and manufacture among staff at the close-security state prison. Law enforcement authorities said the investigation is ongoing and at least one more arrest is coming.

Conn is facing 32 counts of drug trafficking, 15 counts of drug possession, and single counts of endangering children, permitting drug abuse and illegal manufacture of drugs.

Bendel is facing 13 counts of drug possession, six counts of drug trafficking, and single counts of permitting drug abuse and funding of drug trafficking.

Dave Chicarelli, attorney for Conn, declined to comment other than to say his client will plead not guilty at his arraignment today. He is in the Warren County Jail.

Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell said Conn ordered raw materials from China, assembled the drugs in his home — sometimes in the vicinity of a juvenile — and then both used the steroids and sold them to others. Bendel, who is being housed in the Preble County Jail, was both a user and a seller of Conn’s products, Fornshell said.

“It was a fairly large scale operation. We are not talking about a bottle here or a bottle there,” Fornshell said.

Anabolic steroids are performance-enhancing drugs sometimes used in body building, which can increase muscle mass and strength. They are considered dangerous drugs under state law and can have harmful side effects.

The case started with a tip to the Warren County Drug Task Force, which worked in concert with the Ohio Highway Patrol and the Lebanon Correctional Institution. As the investigation progressed, authorities conducted a sting operation and caught Conn and Bendel actively trafficking the drugs, Fornshell said.

Conn and Bendel each abruptly resigned from their state prison jobs in April without giving notice. Both men started working in the prison system in 1994 and had received positive performance reviews. Bendel was named the prison’s Officer of the Year in 2002 for thwarting a drug-smuggling attempt.

The prison, which opened in 1960, employs 526 workers and houses 2,602 inmates, mostly in close security, which is one step down from maximum security.

Conn earned $56,000 last year, according to state payroll records, and Bendel made $55,600.

Fornshell and Drug Task Force Commander John Burke declined to say who were Bendel and Conn’s customers but noted that they do not believe the drugs got into the hands of high school athletes.

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