Cuban baseball gamers paid a South Florida-primarily based smuggling ring much more than $15 million to depart the communist island in secretive ventures that included phony documents, false identities and surreptitious boat voyages to Mexico, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, federal prosecutors say.
A just lately unsealed grand jury indictment against three men supplied new specifics about the smuggling of 17 Cuban players, amid them Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox and Leonys Martin of the Seattle Mariners. The smugglers took a percentage of any Major League Baseball contract a player signed.
The indictment names Bartolo Hernandez, a Weston, Florida-based mostly sports activities agent whose clients integrated Abreu Hernandez associate Julio Estrada, who runs Total Baseball Representation and Coaching in Miami and Haitian citizen Amin Latouff of Port-au-Prince, who is not in U.S. custody and remains in Haiti. They charged with conspiracy and illegally bringing immigrants to the U.S.
Estrada, who arrested final week, has pleaded not guilty and is free on $225,000 bail. Hernandez pleaded not guilty when initially charged in February and is also free on bond.
Estrada’s attorney, Sabrina Puglisi, said in an electronic mail Tuesday that he has by no means involved in unlawful human smuggling.
“He has always taken care of his players, education them so that they could achieve their dream of enjoying MLB in the United States,” she explained.
The situation is an outgrowth of the earlier prosecution in Miami of four men and women for the smuggling of Martin out of Cuba, 1 of whom is serving a 14-12 months prison sentence. Martin is amongst the gamers named in the new indictment as nicely. None of the players have been charged.
Prosecutors have stated the investigation is targeted on the smuggling organizations and not on the gamers. As Cubans, under U.S. policy they are allowed to continue to be in this nation once reaching U.S. soil.
As a portion of the thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations, MLB is in talks with the two countries’ governments on a likely deal that could make it less difficult for Cuban ballplayers to perform in the U.S. with no possessing to sneak away at global tournaments or threat large-seas defections with smugglers.
But starting in April 2009, prosecutors say, the South Florida-primarily based smugglers ran a flourishing and rewarding unlawful pipeline for Cuban players who should set up third-country residency to signal as MLB totally free agents.
The indictment says that Hernandez, Estrada, and Latouff “recruited and paid” boat captains to smuggle players from Cuba to Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti. The plot integrated use of fake jobs for the players, such as welder, mechanic, body shop worker — even a single who was named an “location supervisor for Wet Set Ski.”
The conspirators also employed fake foreign and U.S. documents, including falsified passports and visa applications, to get the gamers to the U.S., according to the indictment.
The case of Abreu, who set a White Sox rookie record with 36 house ran in 2014 and was named American League rookie of the year, is reasonably standard although the funds involved is higher than most.
In accordance to the indictment, Latouff paid $160,000 in August 2013 to a boat captain to smuggle Abreu from Cuba to Haiti. There a fraudulent visa and false title had been offered so that Abreu could fly from Port-au-Prince to Miami.
A brief time later, Chicago announced Abreu had signed a 5-year, $68 million MLB contract. But the court documents show he even now owed the smugglers hundreds of thousands and sent them several wire transfers in 2014 totaling close to $6 million.
Prosecutors are seeking forfeiture of much more than $15.5 million in total payments from ballplayers to the smugglers, as include a seizure of four pieces of luxury homes in South Florida, four Mercedes-Benz automobiles and a Honda motorbike.