Lo Duca talks to MLB officials probing player agents

Major League Baseball officials recently interviewed former big-league catcher Paul Lo Duca in its continuing efforts to investigate the high-powered ACES player agency over their alleged involvement in helping players procure steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs.

Lo Duca has told people that Seth and Sam Levinson, who run ACES, set him up with ex-baseball steroid dealer Kirk Radomski to buy PEDs with the idea they’d enhance his performance at a time Lo Duca was showing little power early in his career with the Dodgers. Lo Duca’s testimony is unprecedented in that no other players are believed to have testified about an agent’s involvement with steroids. However, MLB is believed now interested in seeking out other clients of ACES who might tell a similar story.

The Levinsons’ agency had more than 10 players appear in baseball’s Mitchell Report on steroid use. So MLB will have a number of former players it can pursue, though it isn’t clear what would compel any of these players to corroborate Lo Duca’s story. Few players cooperated with George Mitchell even at a time they were playing and thus under MLB’s auspices, and all these players of interest have since retired.

A union lawyer declined to comment on Lo Duca or its own investigation into the Brooklyn-based Levinsons, who are known to be close to several union higher-ups, not a surprise since they are one of baseball’s biggest agencies. Seth Levinson issued a statement to CBSSports.com a couple weeks ago that said in part, “The allegations against us have no merit and are utterly baseless.’’

But indications are MLB is taking this seriously. At issue could be the Levinsons’ certification that allows them to operate. They are believed to have the second most clients of any agency in baseball.

Lo Duca, who has told people he is hesitant to tell his story publicly at a time he is re-establishing his relationship with the Dodgers, didn’t return messages left by CBSSports.com. The Levinsons’ high-powered criminal attorney Howard Shapiro suggested Lo Duca has a grudge against the Levinsons over $50,000 in disputed agenting fees from work done many years ago.

Their bad blood goes back many years.  Lo Duca has told people that when he left the Levinsons’ agency, they reached out to tell him they’d “bury him,’’ and stories did begin appearing in a New York tabloid that were unflattering to Lo Duca, though Shapiro has suggested that Lo Duca’s purported personal issue may simply have been well-known to the New York scribes.

In any case, MLB’s investigation continues. In addition to Lo Duca’s claims, MLB higher-ups are targeting the Levinsons for two more reasons: 1) they were mentioned in the Roger Clemens trial after Clemens’ former trainer Brian McNamee had testified that ex-reliever Mike Stanton received his HGH from his lawyer (the Levinsons), and 2) the Levinsons were the reps for Melky Cabrera at a time Cabrera, with the aid of at least one Levinson worker, concocted an Internet scheme to try to fool MLB and beat the rap, which was discovered by MLB investigators.

The Levinsons have blamed that uncovered scam on Juan Nunez, a longtime ACES employee they say was only a “consultant,’’ and Nunez has agreed with them, maintaining it was all his scheme, not the Levinsons. Meanwhile, MLB people are skeptical Nunez acted alone in the complicated scheme.

MLB has been in contact with well-known federal drug agent Jeff Novitzky, giving them the possibility they may have subpoena power, which could be a powerful tool if a criminal case can be pursued.

MLB is also talking to Radomski, who has told people that he was close to the Levinsons, as Lo Duca has suggested. Sources say Radomski has suggested to some that he visited the Levinsons as often as twice a week at one time. The Levinsons have meantime suggested they weren’t close to Radomski, who served no jail time after pleading guilty to distributing drugs.

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