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Prison focus of steroid probe

A drug task force is investigating illegal steroid use, distribution and manufacture among staff at the Lebanon Correctional Institution state prison, the Dayton Daily News has learned.

Commander John Burke said the investigation by the Greater Warren County Drug Task Force is centered on prison employees, not inmates. No arrests have been made.

The targets of the investigation have not been disclosed but two of the prison’s lieutenants, Anthony G. Conn and Brian M. Bendel, resigned one day apart earlier this month without giving notice. Both men started in the state prison system in 1994 and have received positive performance evaluations. Bendel was named the prison’s Officer of the Year in 2002 for thwarting a drug-smuggling attempt.

Burke wouldn’t comment on whether the resignations are linked to the steroid probe.

Efforts to reach Conn, 41, of Miamisburg, and Bendel, 43, of Somerville in Butler County, for comment were unsuccessful.

“We have no evidence that any criminal activity occurred on state property,” Corrections spokeswoman JoEllen Smith said. “When the drug task force has completed their investigation we will then determine if an administrative investigation is necessary.”

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 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.

Bendel resigned April 3 and Conn resigned the following day, according to their personnel records obtained by the Daily News. Each cited personal reasons.

Bendel’s last day at work was March 24 and Conn’s was March 20. Both took sick leave between their last work days and the dates they resigned without giving the customary two weeks’ notice, Smith said.

In 2002, Bendel was cited for his quick action in helping to apprehend a visitor who was trying to smuggle drugs into the prison, according to a prison newsletter.

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

The Greater Warren County Drug Task Force has previously investigated steroid distribution networks. The task force led a two-year investigation that resulted in 31 people being indicted in 2011 on charges related to steroid manufacture and distribution. Twenty-five people pleaded guilty and 13 received prison time in that investigation, which was named ‘Operation Bulk-Up.’

Burke said the Lebanon prison case did not stem from the previous steroid investigation.

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