8:49 p.m. EDT, May 19, 2010


An Orlando pharmacy once accused of providing performance-enhancing drugs to professional athletes across the country remains under federal investigation in Central Florida.

Federal prosecutors in Orlando are asking to review evidence seized as part of a 2007 New York case against Signature Compounding Pharmacy.

Charges against company officials later were tossed, but prosecutors recently filed documents in Orlando federal court that state the evidence is related to a "pending grand jury investigation."

Signature's attorneys long have fought allegations against the pharmacy and have denied the company was a distribution channel for pro athletes who sought performance-enhancing drugs.

Signature made national headlines in 2007 when New York prosecutors painted the company as the hub of a steroid network.

In an investigation dubbed "Operation Which Doctor," authorities raided Signature's two Central Florida offices and arrested its top officers. Eventually, nearly two dozen doctors and clinic operators across the country were indicted.

But in 2008, a judge threw out the New York charges against the Signature's officers and barred prosecutors from seeking further charges.

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Since then, Signature's lawyers and Florida prosecutors have continued to argue over the evidence seized from the pharmacy's offices on Kuhl Avenue in Orlando and Aloma Avenue in Winter Park. The evidence was ordered sealed by a circuit court judge.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Katherine Ho said at a hearing Wednesday that one aspect of the federal inquiry is to determine to what extent Signature pharmacy's business was focused on steroids and human-growth hormone.

The U.S. Attorney's Office already has documents seized from Signature during searches in 2007, which have been kept in a locked agency room, according to court documents.

U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman Steve Cole would not discuss the status of the investigation.

Meanwhile, Signature's attorneys argue the seized property should be returned the company. This year, Osceola Circuit Judge John Kest ordered the material to be returned to Signature, court documents show.

Signature attorney Amy Tingley said nothing has been returned.

Company attorneys also say the pharmacy's customers have a right to the privacy of their medical records. Property seized by law enforcement includes every prescription filled by Signature since 2002.

In a recent court filing, Signature's attorneys state that neither the company "nor the individuals whose privacy rights are at stake can find any comfort" in the government's claims that it will only disclose the information to the grand jury and government employees.

Sarah Lundy of the Sentinel staff contributed to this report. Amy L. Edwards can be reached at aledwards@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5735.