MIAMI — Cuban baseball players paid a South Florida smuggling ring more than $15 million to leave 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 recently unsealed grand jury indictment against three men provides fresh details about the smuggling of 17 Cuban players, among them White Sox 1B Jose Abreu and Mariners OF Leonys Martin. The smugglers usually took a percentage of any major-league contract a player signed.
The indictment names Bartolo Hernandez, a Weston sports agent whose clients included Abreu; Hernandez associate Julio Estrada, who runs Total Baseball Representation and Training in Miami; and Haitian citizen Amin Latouff of Port-au-Prince, who is not in U.S. custody and remains in Haiti. They are charged with conspiracy and illegally bringing immigrants to the U.S.
Estrada, who was arrested last week, has pleaded not guilty and is free on $225,000 bail. Hernandez pleaded not guilty when originally charged in February and is also free on bond.
Estrada's lawyer, Sabrina Puglisi, said in an email Tuesday that he has never been involved in illegal human smuggling.
"He has always taken care of his players, training them so that they could achieve their dream of playing MLB in the United States," she said.
NO PENALTY FOR GESTURE: Tigers OF Tyler Collins will not be suspended by Major League Baseball for directing an obscene gesture at booing home fans in Detroit after losing a ball in the lights Monday night. An MLB spokesman confirmed that Collins won't face a suspension. Collins extended his left middle finger and waved it from right to left and appeared to yell an obscenity at the fans. He apologized afterward, saying he "lashed out completely inappropriately" and was "embarrassed" about what happened.
BLUE JAYS: INF Matt Dominguez was recalled from Triple-A Buffalo, and RHP Drew Hutchison was optioned back to the minor leagues. Everyday 3B Josh Donaldson started at DH Monday because of lingering soreness after being hit on the left leg by a pitch Saturday.
METS: C Travis d'Arnaud was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right rotator cuff. Former Rays C Rene Rivera was called up from Triple-A Las Vegas.
RANGERS: Ace RHP Yu Darvish, who is coming back from March 2015 Tommy John surgery, threw a second live batting practice session and said he wants to do another before starting a minor-league rehab.
TWINS: Heralded RHP prospect Jose Berrios is getting called up from Triple-A Rochester and could make his debut tonight. … RHP Ervin Santana (lower back strain) and Kyle Gibson (right shoulder strain) went on the 15-day disabled list.