Florida man to be sentenced for helping baseball star Puig flee Cuba

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 06, 2015 9:07 AM

By Zachary Fagenson

MIAMI (Reuters) - A Florida man who pleaded guilty to helping smuggle Los Angeles Dodgers slugger Yasiel Puig out of Cuba will face sentencing on Friday in federal court.

Gilberto Suarez received $2.5 million sometime after Puig, now 24, arrived in the United States in 2012 and signed a seven-year, $42 million contract with the Dodgers.

Court records said the money came from a Dodgers player but did not say it was Puig.

Suarez faces up to 10 years in prison for conspiring to bring in or harbor aliens, but is expected to receive a lighter sentence as part of a December plea agreement.

His attorney could not be reached for comment. The sentencing takes place in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in Miami.

Under the deal, Suarez agreed to hand over a bank account, a house, a condominium, a 2014 Mercedes-Benz and three handguns.

Suarez paid $250,000 to a group connected to a Mexican drug cartel to get Puig from Cuba to Mexico's east coast, according to an indictment.

He later told the ballplayer to rent a car in Mexico and drive 750 miles (1,200 km) to cross into the United States at Brownsville, Texas, the plea agreement said.

Major League Baseball has voiced concerns over human traffickers smuggling Cuban players into U.S., though the league also says its policies are not to blame.

One of the latest high-paid players to defect from the island is 27-year-old Rusney Castillo, who was signed by the Boston Red Sox to a seven-year, $72.5 million contract last year.

(Reporting by Zachary Fagenson in Miami; Editing by Karen Brooks and Mohammad Zargham)