Agent Bart Hernandez and trainer Julio Estrada have been convicted by a Florida jury after being indicted on charges of human trafficking in February 2016, reports Curt Anderson of the Associated Press. Hernandez, once a prominent player representative, worked with Estrada in bringing players such as Leonys Martin, Jose Abreu, Raisel Iglesias and Jorge Soler to the United States.
The Miami Herald’s Linda Robertson reported earlier this week that two of the four counts of smuggling against Hernandez were dismissed, as U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams ruled that the prosecution lacked sufficient evidence to prove that Hernandez smuggled Abreu or Phillies right-hander Dalier Hinojosa into the country. Hernandez still faced charges for smuggling Martin into the country, per Robertson, while Estrada faced three counts of smuggling players into the country.
According to Anderson, Hernandez is facing between three and 15 years in prison, while Estrada faces between five and 35 years of incarceration. The pair is also facing the forfeiture of $15.5MM. Sentencing has been set for July 11, and the defense attorneys have “promised there would be appeals,” Anderson adds.
Martin and Abreu have both shared eye-opening stories of their departure from Cuba during the trial. A previous report from Yahoo’s Jeff Passan back in 2013 revealed that upon leaving Cuba, Martin and his family believed they were being transported to safety and were instead held hostage, at gunpoint, while Martin’s initial five-year deal with the Rangers was negotiated. And as Anderson wrote last month, Martin’s testimony included details of one evening in Mexico in which eight to nine men broke into his apartment with a crowbar and pressured him to leave with them. There were also abduction attempts made on the men who were aiding in smuggling Martin out of Cuba, and beyond that, Martin was forced to initially agree to pay 35 percent of his United States earnings to the smuggling group on top of the more standard five percent to Hernandez for negotiating his deal with teams.
As for Abreu, the White Sox slugger detailed in his testimony (via the AP) that he was advised by his main contact/fixer in Haiti (where he established residency upon departing Cuba) to destroy his fake passport while on his flight from Haiti to the United States. Abreu testified that he actually ate the page of the false documentation that contained his alias and photograph. Immigration policy at the time allowed Abreu to remain in the United States without proper travel documentation because he had already reached American land. Abreu stated that he feared that he needed to be at a meeting with the White Sox on a specific date or could see his contract fall through, and he could not risk being turned away due to forged paperwork.
As was the case with Martin, Abreu was forced to agree to part with an enormous amount of his U.S. earnings, 20 percent to the smuggling group plus five percent to Hernandez, in exchange for their illegal operations. Per Anderson’s latest story, Abreu testified that he had already paid Estrada more than $7MM of his career earnings.
According to Anderson, neither Estrada nor Hernandez testified over the six weeks during which the jury heard testimonies in the trial. Their defense sought to prove that the two men were running legitimate business operations.