Sports agent Bart Hernandez and trainer Julio Estrada have been convicted of smuggling Cuban baseball players into the United States and capitalizing on their multimillion-dollar professional contracts. Hernandez and Estrada were found guilty of 12 counts in March and had been under house arrest since their guilty verdict. Hernandez was sentenced to nearly four years in prison, while Estrada was sentenced to five years.
Both men were charged with deceiving “the U.S. government into granting visas and other documents to two dozen Cuban ballplayers,” the Miami-Herald reports. Some of the players that Hernandez and Estrada were responsible for bringing into the country include former Miami Marlins shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria and Chicago Cubs outfielder Leonys Martin.
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In an attempt to get lenient sentencing for Hernandez and Estrada, lawyers for the men told the judge that their clients were simply trying to give the players a chance at the American dream. “There’s no question that he made a lot of money,” Estrada’s lawyer, Sabrina Puglisi said, according to the Miami-Herald. “But this is not a case… just about greed. Almost every player he trained he’s still in touch with today.”
Prosecutors, however, painted a completely different picture. They said Hernandez and Estrada “coerced, ripped off and threatened” some of the players and their families.
The Miami-Herald reports that during the trial, a wife of one of the players testified and said her husband “was told he would be chopped up and sent to her in a box if he fled Cancun and signed with somebody else.”
They also report that an invoice showed a player had to pay the men $715,000 for “coaching and consulting services.”