A Canadian doctor's assistant whose arrest at the border raised suspicions about the physician's treatment of professional football and baseball players pleaded guilty Thursday in Buffalo, N.Y., as part of a deal that makes her a key witness against her former boss in exchange for the chance to avoid prison.
Mary Anne Catalano, 32, admitted to a single count of lying to border agents, telling the judge she'd had a "lapse of judgment" when she agreed to bring medical equipment and vials of drugs, including human growth hormone, into the United States for Dr. Anthony Galea to use on athletes.
"He was my employer, someone I'd known since I was 15 years old," said Catalano, who acknowledged making more than 20 trips for the Toronto doctor knowing he wasn't licensed to practice in the U.S.
Catalano told investigators that Galea, who'd had trouble getting the items across the border himself, had instructed her to lie to border officers and say the supplies were for a conference, according to the plea agreement. That is what she initially told agents at the Peace Bridge in Buffalo after being pulled over for a secondary inspection last September, prosecutors said.
"In the end," Catalano told U.S. District Judge Richard Arcara through tears, "I didn't think he was someone who would put me in this position."
The Toronto-area woman's cooperation in the months since her arrest already has led to a host of U.S. and Canadian charges against Galea, whose high-profile clients include Tiger Woods, Alex Rodriguez and several NFL players.
"She stayed down here for days without benefit of counsel. It was pretty extraordinary what she did," said her attorney, Rodney Personius, who said Catalano has made several additional trips to meet with investigators since then.
A U.S. criminal complaint filed last month charged Galea with conspiracy, smuggling, unlawful distribution of human growth hormone and introducing the unapproved drug Actovegin into interstate commerce.
The charges are similar to those filed by Canadian authorities in October. Files marked "NFL" and "CFL" were among the evidence seized by Canadian authorities during a search of Galea's Toronto office. The list of items seized doesn't identify patients, but it specifies that 42 patient medical files were taken, along with a list of patient names, "professional players journal," "black daytimer with football dates," bank statements, computer equipment and a folder of checks made out to Galea.
Court filings describe Galea making multiple trips to meet with professional athletes in New York, Boston, Tampa Bay, Washington and other U.S. cities from July through September of last year and injecting at least seven with human growth hormone, a substance banned by major sports.
The filings don't identify any athletes by name.
Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss admitted last month to being treated by Galea in the past, but he denied using HGH. The NFL doesn't test for HGH but still could suspend Moss if it finds other proof that he used the substance.
U.S. Attorney William Hochul said the investigation against Galea is continuing. The New York Mets' Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran are among athletes who have said they've been contacted by federal investigators about the doctor, who denies any wrongdoing.
"At this point, people that have indicated -- whether they be athletes or others -- that they want to cooperate with the government or who have provided truthful information to the government are considered witnesses and not targets," Hochul said Thursday.
Galea's Buffalo attorney, Mark Mahoney, was in the courtroom for Catalano's hearing but declined to comment afterward on either the plea or the government's case against the doctor.
Catalano hasn't spoken with Galea since her arrest, her attorney, Calvin Barry, said.
As part of the plea agreement, the government agreed to recommend a sentence of zero to six months in prison in exchange for Catalano's continued cooperation with investigators, which could include testifying before a grand jury or at a trial. Prosecutors also agreed to drop a more serious smuggling charge, which could have sent her to prison for up to 20 years if convicted.
Catalano, who is free on $10,000 bail, declined to comment following the hearing. She is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 14.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.