PJ Braun received the same sentence of incarceration as his former business partner, Aaron Singerman.

Josh Long, Associate editorial director, Natural Products Insider

February 18, 2022

4 Min Read
Another Blackstone Labs co-founder sentenced to prison

Phillip (PJ) Braun has been sentenced to 54 months in prison for his role at Blackstone Labs in selling anabolic steroids and other illegal products marketed as dietary supplements.

On Thursday, Feb. 17, he received the same sentence of incarceration as his former business partner, Aaron Singerman.

Combined, Braun, Singerman and Blackstone also were ordered to forfeit around $7 million. Judge William Dimitrouleas of the Southern District of Florida ordered Braun to forfeit $3 million, Singerman to forfeit $2.9 million and Blackstone Labs to forfeit $1.2 million.

He also sentenced Anthony Ventrella to 13 months in prison for conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud as part of the scheme. Ventrella owned Ventech Labs, which manufactured products for Blackstone Labs and was ordered to forfeit equipment.

Another person tied to the case, Robert DiMaggio, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States, was sentenced to 36 months of supervised release. Russell Williams, a lawyer representing DiMaggio, said his client’s sentence was “commensurate” with “his culpability in the case.”

Many of the sentences imposed by Dimitrouleas included orders to pay restitution as well.

“Selling controlled substances and unapproved drugs falsely labelled as dietary supplements is illegal and potentially dangerous,” Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian Boynton, head of DOJ’s Civil Division, said in a news release. “The Department of Justice will work with law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute individuals and companies who disregard public safety to make a profit."

Related:Blackstone Labs co-founder sentenced to prison

Braun publicly addressed his case in an Instagram video, which Evolution of Bodybuilding reposted online via YouTube. Braun identified himself as president of Blackstone Labs and said it would be the last “presidential address” he would give for a while due to some products he sold early in his career. Braun said he wanted to “set the record straight.”

“We sold Super DMZ, which at the time was a prohormone, and we sold some SARMs (selective androgen receptor modulators),” he said. “We believed that we were OK selling them, but we weren’t. We should not have done it, and I accept responsibility for that, and I will accept my punishment for selling those products years ago.”

Benedict Kuehne, an attorney representing Braun, told Natural Products Insider that his client "accepted full responsibility for his role in selling products that ran afoul of FDA regulations."

"PJ worked hard to help build Blackstone into a brand with a deserved reputation for promoting safety, health and wellness," Kuehne said via email. "He is grateful for the hundreds of thousands of consumers who remain loyal to the Blackstone brand and rely on its products to maintain a healthy and fit lifestyle."

Related:Retailer tied to Blackstone Labs gets supervised release, not prison

Attorneys representing Blackstone Labs, Ventrella and Ventech Labs did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In total, eight individuals and three companies have been convicted in connection with Blackstone Labs’ activities, DOJ reported. Several individuals and retailers were sentenced last week.

James Boccuzzi, who was convicted by a jury in December of one count of conspiracy to defraud FDA and one count of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, is scheduled to be sentenced on March 11, DOJ said.

Braun and Singerman used to own and manage Blackstone Labs, which also was sentenced to five years of probation.

"The laws governing nutritional supplements are complicated, technical and difficult to stay abreast of the many changes that occur," Kuehne, Braun's lawyer, said. "Blackstone’s legions of supporters should know that Blackstone will continue to promote products that are both healthy and compliant."

The company “has been operating in compliance with the letter of the law” since being under new ownership in 2017, according to an email last year from Arthur Leach, Blackstone Labs' counsel.

Jared Wheat owns two-thirds of Blackstone Labs and was not involved in the company during the time it was engaged in illegal activity, according to a sentencing memo filed in January by the company’s lawyers in the Southern District of Florida.

“Mr. Wheat has loaned the company millions of dollars in an attempt to keep the company alive and repair the damage done by the previous owners’ criminal behavior,” the sentencing memo declared.

Wheat, however, is facing criminal charges in an unrelated case. He and his company, Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals, as well as a third defendant, were charged in a grand jury indictment with wire fraud, money laundering, conspiracy to introduce misbranded drugs into interstate commerce and other crimes. In a 2017 interview with Natural Products Insider after being indicted and arrested, Wheat called the charges “bogus.”

“They never tested [my] products," he said at the time.

About the Author(s)

Josh Long

Associate editorial director, Natural Products Insider, Informa Markets Health and Nutrition

Josh Long directs the online news, feature and op-ed coverage at Natural Products Insider, which targets the health and wellness industry. He has been reporting on developments in the dietary supplement industry for over a decade, with a focus on regulatory issues, including at the Food and Drug Administration.

He has moderated and/or presented at industry trade shows, including SupplySide East, SupplySide West, Natural Products Expo West, NBJ Summit and the annual Dietary Supplement Regulatory Summit.

Connect with Josh on LinkedIn and ping him with story ideas at [email protected]

Education and previous experience

Josh majored in journalism and graduated from Arizona State University the same year "Jake the Snake" Plummer led the Sun Devils to the Rose Bowl against the Ohio State Buckeyes. He also holds a J.D. from the University of Wyoming College of Law, was admitted in 2008 to practice law in the state of Colorado and spent a year clerking for a state district court judge.

Over more than a quarter century, he’s written on various topics for newspapers and business-to-business publications – from the Yavapai in Arizona and a controversial plan for a nuclear-waste incinerator in Idaho to nuanced issues, including FDA enforcement of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA).

Since the late 1990s, his articles have been published in a variety of media, including but not limited to, the Cape Cod Times (in Massachusetts), Sedona Red Rock News (in Arizona), Denver Post (in Colorado), Casper Star-Tribune (in Wyoming), now-defunct Jackson Hole Guide (in Wyoming), Colorado Lawyer (published by the Colorado Bar Association) and Nutrition Business Journal.

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