We’ve written recently written about the number of harrowing stories of Cuban baseball players who have made their way from their home country to jobs in Major League Baseball. And how those stories often involve human trafficking, blackmail and worse. In February, an agent was indicted on human trafficking charges. There are other parallel investigations into this murky world.
Today federal prosecutors said that Cuban baseball players paid a South Florida-based smuggling ring more than $15 million to leave Cuba, complete with setups for phony documents, false identities and boat voyages to Mexico, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
The revelations came in the form of an unsealed grand jury indictment against Bartolo Hernandez, a Florida-based sports agent, and two of his associates. It provides details about the smuggling of 17 Cuban players, among them Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox and Leonys Martin of the Seattle Mariners. The smugglers usually took a percentage of any Major League Baseball contract a player signed. Of course, given the dire circumstances in which the players found themselves, there are allegations that these monies were extracted under duress and that the circumstances of moving the players from one place to another involved force or fear or bodily harm.
An ugly world which, hopefully, will disappear as relations normalize between the U.S. and Cuba.