The Philadelphia Inquirer by Allison Steele and Mike Newall - April 26, 2011
When Philadelphia Police Detective Keith Gidelson phoned the U.S. Postal Service on April 7 to complain about a missing package, he did not know that the FBI was secretly listening in. Agents allegedly heard the 14-year veteran identify himself as a police officer and say he was expecting a delivery from eBay. Instead, according to a federal indictment announced Wednesday, the package contained thousands of dollars worth of illegal steroids, mailed by his California connection. Gidelson, 34, was arrested Wednesday morning, charged with operating an anabolic steroid and human-growth hormone distribution ring. He was one of 15 people named in a federal indictment that also charges his wife, Kirsten, with selling the drugs. Also arrested were Philadelphia Police Officers Joseph McIntyre, 36, and George Sambuca, 25, who are accused of buying steroids from Gidelson and reselling them. From September 2009 until this month, the indictment alleges, Keith Gidelson operated the distribution ring out of his Northeast Philadelphia home. He and his wife received monthly shipments from Europe and China, authorities said, then sold the drugs to customers in their house on Waldemire Drive, in fitness clubs, and to people they met in online weightlifting chat rooms such as inject.com. Others charged include a California man who allegedly received shipments, then repackaged and sent the drugs to Gidelson; a Chicago man who authorities said sometimes partnered with Gidelson to buy large shipments of steroids; and nine Philadelphia-area men who allegedly bought the drugs, including two employees of Champ Nutrition, a vitamin store on Grant Avenue in the Northeast. The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency as well as the FBI and the Philadelphia Police Department's corruption task force. Authorities declined to comment on how it began. Gidelson is assigned to the Police Department's Safety Office. McIntyre, 36, who is also a 14-year veteran, works in the 26th District, which covers the Kensington section. Sambuca, 25, is assigned to North Philadelphia's 22d District. Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey said the three officers have been suspended for 30 days with intent to dismiss. As he was led into a federal courtroom Wednesday to be arraigned with 12 others, Gidelson, a short man with a large frame, glanced at his handcuffed wife. He wore running shorts, flip-flops, and a sleeveless T-shirt that showed his tattooed arms. Gidelson was granted a court-appointed attorney and held pending a detention hearing set for Monday. Kirsten Gidelson, 36, who cried in front of Judge Jacob P. Hart, pleaded not guilty and was granted bail, as were McIntyre and Sambuca. Ramsey described the arrests as "another dark day" for a department that has endured a string of high-profile criminal cases involving police officers. Last year, Ramsey significantly increased the number of officers in Internal Affairs in an effort to target corruption.