Cuban Baseball Players and the World of Illegal Smuggling

This past Monday, the U.S. government filed a witness list for its case of the U.S. vs. Bart Hernandez. Amongst the 77 people, it hopes to have testify at federal court are some of baseballs highest profile Cuban players including Jose Abreu a first baseman for the Chicago White Sox.

Smuggling of players such as Abreu is what is behind the prosecution by the government of Hernandez, who is a longtime agent for players and accused in the trafficking of players to the U.S. from Cuba.

Court documents in this case, that have been released over the past few months allege that there exists a web of lies, kidnapping, fraud, violence and murder, as teams in the major leagues spent millions each on baseball players from Cuba.

Fewer cases illustrate corruption like Abreu’s does. During August of 2013, an alleged Hernandez associate known as Amind Latouff paid over $160,000 so Abreu could be smuggled from his home in Cuba to the Caribbean Islands nation of Haiti, show court documents.

By the middle of October, a fake passport with a visa was secured by Latouff for Abreu and his girlfriend to enter the U.S.

By the end of October, Abreu had already signed a deal worth $68 million with Chicago and the payments began.

A wire for $2.45 million was sent to Julio Estrada another Hernandez alleged associate. A payment of $276, 250 was made to Hernandez.

Then another $2 million was sent to Estrada. Three payments more followed that. In all over $6.4 million amounted to the price of doing business to gain a star player whose desire was to leave Cuba.

Investigators with the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI found over a dozen more cases that are similar in nature to that of Abreu, showed court records released this week.

In all, 17 players from Cuba who paid out over $8.89 million into different bank accounts operated by either Estrada or Hernandez.

The U.S. government says it believes the full amount of the payments was in excess of $15 million and it is seeking the money.

Now Latouff, Estrada and Hernandez are facing trial on charges of seven counts of conspiracy and for bringing undocumented immigrants into the U.S.

Jury selection will begin January 3, 2017, with witnesses including the rich and famous such as Abreu and Yoenis Cespedes another star from Cuba.

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