Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported last week that a grand jury had been convened as part of a federal investigation into Latin American amateur signings by Major League Baseball clubs. Now, Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated writes that the Department of Justice has undertaken “a sweeping probe into possible corruption tied to the recruitment of international players, centered on potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.” Multiple alleged victims of smuggling and human trafficking violations have either provided evidence to law enforcement or testified before a federal grand jury, according to Wertheim.
The DOJ’s investigation “could get interesting,” a top baseball official told SI, which “obtained a thick dossier of documentation that was provided to the FBI at the beginning of the probe,” Wertheim writes. That dossier features “videotapes, photographs, confidential legal briefs, receipts, copies of player visas and passport documents, internal club emails and private communications by franchise executives in 2015 and 2016,” Wertheim adds.
Per Passan’s report, the Dodgers have come under scrutiny for their signing of infielder Hector Olivera out of Cuba for six years and $62.5MM in 2015. While Olivera’s name isn’t mentioned in SI’s report, it notes that the Dodgers “figure most prominently in the dossier” it obtained. The Dodgers, according to SI, “went so far as to develop a database that measured the perceived “level of egregious behavior” displayed by 15 of their own employees in Latin America.” The Dodgers used a 1-5 scale to measure whether an employee was an “innocent bystander” or a “criminal,” per Wertheim, who adds that five of their 15 employees received a criminal rating. One of those employees, whose focus was on the Caribbean and Venezuela, was “unbelievably corrupt,” SI relays.
Wertheim’s must-read piece sheds more light on potentially corrupt behavior from the Dodgers, though neither president Andrew Friedman nor ex-director of player development Gabe Kapler (now the Phillies’ manager) returned messages to SI seeking comment. Dodgers outside counsel David Schindler told SI he has “no knowledge” of a DOJ investigation, meanwhile. For its part, “Major League Baseball has not been contacted by federal authorities regarding an investigation,” MLB spokesman Pat Courtney informed the magazine. However, it’s “likely” that will change, according to Wertheim.