Get ready for the possible sequel to the BALCO and Biogenesis sports doping scandals.
The attorneys representing Juan Carlos Nunez, the former employee of the powerful Brooklyn-based ACES sports agency who has sued both ACES and its owners, brothers Seth and Sam Levinson, told the Daily News Tuesday that “other bombshells” are still to come in the legal matter.
The explosive civil complaint, filed in Brooklyn Supreme Court Monday, alleges that the Levinsons instructed Nunez to make “under-the-table payments” to players to keep them in the ACES fold; directed Nunez to help ACES clients procure and use performance-enhancing drugs; and had Nunez “engaging in an elaborate coverup to hide the misconduct from (Major League Baseball) and its Players’ Union.”
“Defendants directed Plaintiff to engage in this misconduct every step of the way, with each act by Plaintiff requiring defendants’ approval,” the complaint reads.
But while only a few players’ names are mentioned in the complaint with regard to PED use – former Yankee Melky Cabrera and slugger Nelson Cruz, who was suspended 50 games by MLB in the Biogenesis case – Nunez’s attorneys suggested more athletes’ names might emerge in the future.
“We haven’t even begun discovery,” said attorney Jeffrey Eilender of Schlam Stone & Dolan, who along with Erik Groothuis, represents Nunez. “This is tip of the iceberg.”
The Levinsons released a statement in response to the Nunez lawsuit that spotlights Nunez’s criminal past. Nunez was one of several defendants in the federal Biogenesis case, and he ultimately pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute testosterone. He was sentenced to three months in prison in 2015.
“While we have not yet seen the complaint, Juan Nunez is a convicted felon who spent time in federal prison. He betrayed his family, the players who trusted him and the very people who gave him an opportunity at a great life and career,” said the Levinsons’ statement, which was published in several outlets. “He was terminated almost six (6) years ago, in August of 2012, after his betrayals came to light.
“ACES has been thoroughly investigated, and at every turn, has fully cooperated,” said the Levinsons’ statement. “The MLBPA exonerated us, all of the players cleared us, and it was conclusively proven that we did absolutely nothing wrong. This is nothing more than a shakedown by a man broken by his own criminal actions. We will take the fight to Mr. Nunez for any meritless and defamatory claims, and we will seek all available remedies and damages that his criminal behavior has caused.”
It is true that the Players Association only “censured” the Levinsons in 2012, after the players’ union investigated the two brothers in connection to the Melky Cabrera/phony website scam. Nunez, who the Levinsons said in 2012 was a “paid consultant,” admitted in 2012 that he, and not the Levinsons, had concocted the phony website with Cabrera. The site advertised a product that Cabrera said caused him to test positive for elevated levels of testosterone. The ruse fell through after an MLB probe, and Cabrera was suspended 50 games in 2012. Nunez was banned from all MLB activities. The suit says he signed a contract to work for ACES starting in 2006.
But when the website scam was uncovered in a Daily News exclusive report in 2012, former Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski was called into MLB offices around the same time and he was asked to sign an affidavit detailing his association with ACES. The Nunez lawsuit says Radomski signed an affidavit confirming he “regularly provided ACES clients with PEDs.”
“Not many people knew about that,” Radomski told The News Tuesday, referring to the affidavit. “It was very low-key. I signed it right there at MLB. They came and picked me up at my (Long Island) house and drove me in to MLB headquarters in the middle of the day. It was pretty weird. A week later, (the union) came out and said they censured (the Levinsons). Players would tell me to go see Sam or Seth. Sometimes they would have an envelope of cash waiting, or sometimes someone would write me a check.”
Only the union, which certifies and regulates agents, can authorize whether an agent is decertified, but it’s possible that outside forces may be pressuring the union and its executive director, Tony Clark, to discipline the Levinsons more severely now.
The Players Association declined comment Tuesday, as did MLB. One source said that the Levinsons, who represent such bold-face names as David Wright, Jon Lester and Dustin Pedroia, seem to be acting with an air of “invincibility.” Nunez, meanwhile, seeks damages of no less than $3 million. Groothuis said a settlement with ACES and the Levinsons is “always possible.”
“(Nunez) pleaded guilty in the federal case. He cooperated with MLB. The guy is not completely pure. But what has to be said for him, is that he is coming to grips with his mistakes. He’s taking responsibility for what he did,” said Eilender. “He’s stepped up to the plate, and it’s time for them to do the same. Their statement is completely preposterous. ACES is compounding their prior criminal conduct. ACES is responsible for what occurred. This statement is a packet of lies.”