Playing a Dangerous Game : Drugs: Former Cal State Northridge player is a convicted cocaine dealer who used steroids. Now he is playing for Barcelona of the WLAF, hoping for another NFL opportunity.

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

A muscle-bound, 6-foot-5, 300-pound professional football player addresses the people of Shasta County with a familiar, just-say-no message, reciting the details with emotion and conviction.

He tells of a close friend who died when he smashed his car into the back of a truck after an all-night cocaine binge, and of his own father dying at 46, his life cut short by liquor and cigarettes.

Barry Voorhees, a hometown hero from Redding, even reveals that he experimented with steroids.

"I took steroids, and it was a mistake," he said.

What Voorhees does not say is that he is a convicted cocaine dealer out on bail awaiting his appeal; that he twice was arrested for drug trafficking in the fall of 1989, about the same time he was earning all-conference honors as a senior offensive lineman for Cal State Northridge.

Law-enforcement reports portray Voorhees as a man who sold a variety of illegal drugs to accumulate a small empire, including real estate and several expensive vehicles.

The judge who sentenced Voorhees to four years in prison on Dec. 17, 1990, described him as a "giant dope dealer," one who ran a "six-figure" business and someone who admitted making armed deliveries of cocaine for an unidentified Colombian connection.

In a court declaration by Walter F. Jekot, a West Los Angeles physician who has been indicted on 27 counts of illegally distributing steroids, Voorhees is accused of exchanging promises of a homosexual relationship for steroids. Voorhees denies there was a sexual relationship.

Voorhees, 28, was an informant in a federal investigation of the doctor, whose patients also include former Raider star Lyle Alzado and Dallas Cowboy defensive lineman Danny Noonan.

All that aside, Voorhees is preparing to begin his second season as a starter for the Barcelona Dragons of the World League of American Football. Barcelona played its first exhibition game of the season last Thursday in Orlando, Fla., then left for Europe the next day.

But Voorhees may be back any day.

He has been subpoenaed to testify at Jekot's trial, which is set to begin April 7 in federal court in Los Angeles. And he could also be sent to prison if his appeal is rejected.

Since his conviction, Voorhees has navigated a tenuous path, just as he did during college when he balanced two budding careers: one as a football player, the other as a peddler of cocaine, speed, the hallucinogenic drug Ecstasy, marijuana, human-growth hormone and steroids.

In the meantime, he attempts to dismiss his past.

Reached at the Dragons' training camp in Orlando, Voorhees at first denied his criminal record, then changed his mind, saying: "All of that happened a long time ago. Each day of my life since then I've been trying to sweep it under the rug and let it go by."

To this point, he has been successful. The people of professional football, much like the people of Shasta County, do not know the details.

CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK

Barry Voorhees is the grandson of a football official, nephew of a professional player and son of a former high school cheerleader and a 6-foot-2, 240-pound rabid Washington Redskin fan.

It was said he was a Size-XL chip off the old block, but Barry and his father, Verne, clashed over almost everything--including football, a passion they shared.

Barry was a fan of the Dallas Cowboys and when his favorite team met the Redskins twice each season, Nancy Voorhees was forced to send son and husband to neutral viewing sites.

Their adversary relationship started to change in 1980 when Verne suffered a heart attack, the first in a chain of health problems that would plague him until his death in November, 1988.

From junior high through junior college, Barry worked as a paper boy, gardener, plumber's assistant, landscaper, janitor, ice cream server, pool cleaner, construction laborer and nightclub bouncer, supplementing his father's disability check.

Industriousness, Voorhees learned, paid dividends. Still a few months shy of his 16th birthday, he paid cash for his first vehicle, a truck--$4,800 earned mostly delivering newspapers and mowing lawns.

Work prevented Voorhees from playing football at Dos Pueblos High in Goleta, Calif., and he was a lean 6-2, 200 pounds when he graduated in 1982.

But as Verne's health continued to fail, Barry, friends and family say, dedicated his life to making his father's final days happy. Football was the vehicle he chose.

In 1986, Voorhees enrolled at Santa Barbara City College and set his sights on a professional football career. Two years later, when he accepted a scholarship to play football at Northridge, Voorhees was 6-5 and weighed more than 300 pounds, a growth spurt he attributed to the fury with which he trained after once being chided about his rather ordinary physique.

But, according to court records, Voorhees told sheriff's deputies that he used steroids to bulk up for his first season of football at Santa Barbara.

Soon after, Voorhees said he began selling steroids during his second year in junior college when he realized how profitable it was.

His entrepreneurial flair continued paying off. Only now, instead of tending odd jobs, he was marketing steroids.

WELCOME TO THE BIG CITY

Voorhees enrolled at Northridge in the spring of 1988 and, according to court records, was introduced to Jekot.

In his declaration, Jekot, 50, alleges that he and Voorhees began to "experiment sexually" shortly after meeting, a claim Voorhees denies. Jekot also says that Voorhees sold him human-growth hormone, charging $400 a box for 15-20 boxes on separate occasions.

Voorhees told detectives that he expanded his sales to include cocaine, Ecstasy, speed and marijuana after he and his wife, Tyree, moved into a home the couple rented with Rodd Weber, another Northridge football recruit.

In an interview with a Santa Barbara County probation officer, Voorhees said Weber sold grams of cocaine at a nightclub where Weber was employed as a bouncer. Soon, the housemates were in business.

Using the money Voorhees made from selling steroids, he and Weber bought cocaine by the ounce and split it up by the gram to sell for profit.

Then, on Nov. 26, Verne Voorhees died of heart disease. His son took it hard saying he didn't care about "life, school, football, nothing."

His first reaction was to quit the Northridge football team, an option Voorhees reconsidered after talks with Northridge Coach Bob Burt and his former junior college coach, Bob Dinaberg. But his slide into the narcotics underworld continued.

In May, 1989, Voorhees told sheriff's detectives, "a friend of a friend" introduced him to a "Colombian guy," for whom he became a delivery man, making $500 on the exchange of each kilo of cocaine--street value, approximately $18,000.

Shortly after one of those deliveries, in July, 1989, sheriff's detectives identified Voorhees as a key figure in a drug-smuggling investigation in Santa Barbara County.

While searching a suspected cocaine dealer's home in Santa Maria, a detective answered a phone call in which the caller left a message to "call Barry" at "my pager number."

It was a coincidence, but it brought the downfall of Voorhees as a drug dealer.

In the suspect's address book, authorities found several numbers for Voorhees, including one for a pager and others for his home in Northridge and his mother's home in Goleta.

A check with other narcotics sources in Santa Barbara County revealed that Michael Knopf, who later was convicted of selling cocaine, was linked to a large, heavily muscled man who drove a Toyota pickup with the license BG BARRY and played football for Northridge.

A DOMINO EFFECT

Santa Barbara detectives soon learned that the Department of Justice's Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement in San Diego also was investigating Voorhees and Weber.

In June, 1989, court records show, undercover narcotics agents met with Weber and Voorhees to negotiate the purchase of steroids, speed, Ecstasy and 20 kilos of cocaine for $500,000.

During the meeting, agents took a picture of Voorhees with a briefcase full of money, and asked that he and Weber show the photo to their sources as proof the deal was legitimate. In turn, Voorhees and Weber supplied the undercover officers with a one-ounce sample of cocaine and 100 Ecstasy tablets.

However, the next day Voorhees and Weber told the same officers that the deal was off.

Four months later, detectives expanded their investigation to include surveillance of Voorhees. In November, six days after the final football game of Voorhees' senior season, Santa Barbara detectives searched his Northridge home.

They discovered an enormous stash of steroid and drug paraphernalia, weapons, marijuana, $5,200 and, in the extended cab of Voorhees' truck, a vial of cocaine.

There were also listings of bank accounts, properties, stocks and vehicle registrations indicating that Barry and Tyree Voorhees were living well above their means. Included were two receipts for $15,750 each on a 1985 Porsche Carrera they owned.

Copies of tax returns obtained by the detectives showed the couple had claimed a joint income of $9,323 in 1987 and $1,262 in 1988, but copies of W-2 forms in their names listed incomes of $42,724 for Tyree Voorhees and $285,400 for Barry Voorhees for 1988.

Detectives believe that Voorhees needed phony W-2s to secure loans for the property he expected to buy with the profits from his drug business.

"Barry wasn't like most of the dope dealers we find," said Ron LeGault, one of the detectives who arrested him. "Barry was pretty sophisticated. He had a plan."

Detectives also turned up what they said were debt and owe sheets totaling $241,456, which included the names of two former Northridge football players and a former assistant coach. There was also a photograph of Voorhees with a briefcase stuffed with money. It was the one taken by San Diego BNE agents five months earlier.

The same day, detectives also searched a compartment at a Granada Hills storage outlet where in October they saw Voorhees pick up a package. They found hundreds of boxes and bottles of steroids in a locker registered to Lisa Hall, Weber's girlfriend and a former all-conference softball player at Northridge. Records showed that Weber and Barry and Tyree Voorhees also had access to the storage area.

Barry Voorhees was arrested after he admitted to supplying Knopf with cocaine. He also claimed he was trying to stop selling drugs but asked, "What am I supposed to do with it? Throw it away?"

Tyree Voorhees and Weber also were at the home but were not arrested. Police questioned Hall by telephone but did not press charges.

According to sheriff's department records, Voorhees offered to identify his suppliers for leniency on the cocaine charge. However, after receiving a tip from an informant that Tyree was trying to hide a supply of steroids that had not been confiscated earlier, detectives set up a sting operation Dec. 6, at a restaurant in Ventura.

While out on $500,000 bail, Voorhees was arrested for possession of controlled substances, along with Tyree. No charges were filed in that case, a circumstance law-enforcement officials attribute to the cost of prosecuting what then was considered a relatively minor offense.

A NEW DAY IN COURT

In April, 1990, Voorhees became only the second player in 28 years of Northridge football to be chosen in the National Football League draft. The New York Giants, who according to Voorhees had no knowledge of his criminal record, made him their eighth-round selection.

In retrospect, Voorhees considers his days as a drug dealer as insignificant as his decision to temporarily leave the Northridge football team. Selling narcotics, he says, was "a side thing."

"People say, 'Why didn't you get out?' " Voorhees said. "Well, it's not that easy. I feared for my life.

"What happened to me was the only way it could have happened. I couldn't walk away from what I was doing. Either I would have been dead, or I was going to get caught."

Law enforcement officials offer a different reason.

"Barry wants to be a rich man," LeGault said. "He had money and marketing magazines we found at his house. He was in it for the money."

Meanwhile, Voorhees' NFL career was cut short. He was cut by the Giants midway through training camp and failed last summer to land a place with the Houston Oilers. But he hopes that another strong campaign with the Dragons--he was second-team all-league last season when he made $20,000--will earn him one last shot in the NFL.

Even if his cocaine conviction is overturned--his appeal was rejected once but is back in appeals court--Voorhees has at least one more court date--as a witness in the Jekot trial.

Among the paper work seized from Voorhees' home at the time of his first arrest was a pad of 49 blank prescription slips in the name of Jekot, and a note from Jekot authorizing Voorhees to carry medicine.

Jekot has admitted providing Voorhees with steroids but says he did so only after being enticed by promises to re-establish what he says was their homosexual relationship.

In the spring of 1990, around the time the Giants drafted him, federal investigators arranged for Voorhees to serve as an informant and instructed him to resume his dealings with Jekot.

Jekot said that when Voorhees requested steroids from him in 1990 he "implied that he would favor me with sex if I were to treat him."

" . . . Mr. Voorhees was aware that I was a homosexual and that I was very attracted to him," Jekot said in his court declaration. "Within a very short period of time I became hopelessly in love with Mr. Voorhees and I was willing to do almost anything to sustain the relationship."

Voorhees denies he had sex with Jekot.

"He was getting me what I needed and I was paying him for it," said Voorhees, who has been married for 4 1/2 years.

Jekot claimed that in every other instance he dispensed steroids "for medical purposes" and within the confines of treating "specific medical conditions." He said he gave in to requests from Voorhees because of his "pleadings and his implied promises of sexual favors."

In May, 1990, Voorhees allegedly made a monitored telephone call to Jekot, requesting steroids and "blockers"--tablets that mask steroids during urinalysis--to use during Giants' training camp.

Two days later, Voorhees allegedly visited Jekot at his office, receiving two vials of steroids and 21 tablets of a substance that would serve as a blocker. Jekot also is accused of providing Voorhees with two vials of steroids on July 19, 1990.

Voorhees was not checked for drug or steroid use at Northridge because the school considers the testing cost prohibitive. He has passed WLAF tests, but Dr. Ian McDonald, the league's drug adviser, said more frequent random and unannounced tests will be done this season.

THE AFTERMATH

In delivering his anti-drug message to schools and service groups, Voorhees admits only to one six-week cycle of steroid use in 1988. And he provides a reason, saying fellow weightlifters at Gold's Gym in Northridge pressured him into using the muscle-building drugs by telling him it was the advantage he needed to set a world record in the bench press. He never did set the record.

Voorhees also tells his audience that he tore a pectoral muscle while training and decided to gain strength by natural means only.

Although Jekot's trial might interrupt his football season, Voorhees must appear if called as a witness. He's also hoping his cooperation--and his speeches on drug abuse--will be viewed favorably by law enforcement authorities.

"I've done more than my share of what you might call community service that nobody told me to do," Voorhees said.

And he has gone to some length to share that fact with those who arrested him.

A few months ago, Voorhees stopped by the Santa Barbara Sheriff's Department to see LeGault and Jeff Klapakis, the other arresting officer.

"I told them that I wanted them to know I'm not some scumbag off the street," Voorhees said. "Basically, I thanked them for saving my life."

But LeGault, a veteran on the narcotics beat, was unmoved.

"I've got nothing against the guy," he said of Voorhees. "I just think he's a dope dealer."

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