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U.S. attorney’s office charges three people with conspiring to kidnap and extort Leonys Martin

Dec 5, 2013, 9:15 AM EDT

Leonys Martin, Mike Dayly, Jon Daniels AP

Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald reports that the U.S. attorney’s office in Miami has charged three people with smuggling Cuban prospects into the United States, including smuggling, kidnapping, and extortion charges specifically related to Rangers center fielder Leonys Martin.

According to Weaver two of the accused–Eliezer Lazo and Joel Martinez–are already serving prison sentences for money laundering convictions and the third–Yilian Hernandez–was arrested yesterday by Homeland Security and the FBI.

Martin left Cuba in 2010 and signed a $15.5 million contract with the Rangers, making his MLB debut in September of 2011. He was smuggled into the country through Mexico and Lazo and Martinez previously filed a civil lawsuit against Martin claiming they’d served as his management agency and he failed to pay them. Martin counter-sued them claiming it was an “illegal scheme” involving extortion and holding him hostage until “ransom” money was paid.

It’s a pretty crazy story overall, so definitely check out the entire write-up in the Miami Herald.

  1. hittfamily - Dec 5, 2013 at 9:35 AM

    Something doesn’t seem right about birthplace determining whether you can sign a free agent contract, or have to enter the draft. How much was a 18 year old Bryce Harper worth on the free market? 100 mil? I bet that 500 grand he’s getting while Puig and Darvish are making 10 mil a year is starting to wear on him. If I was Harper, I’d have joined the Oneida tribe, resigned my US citizenship, then reapplied once my new contract had been properly filed with the commissioners office.

    • anxovies - Dec 5, 2013 at 1:26 PM

      It does make you wonder about labor laws when applied to sports where highly developed individual skills are the key to employment. I guess the thinking as far as Cuban players are concerned is that these guys should’t have to risk their lives dodging the Cuban Navy in leaky boats in shark-infested waters for MLB minimum wage. However, I think I read something about MLB and the players union changing the rules to limit contract amounts for all prospects from the Caribbean and South America. Don’t know if I am correct on that. But if I am it makes you wonder how your fate can be determined before you even enter the country.

      • hittfamily - Dec 6, 2013 at 1:35 AM

        Make them enter the first time eligible players draft, the same as everyone else. I don’t think it is right that an American, in America, has fewer rights concerning employment than someone with the same skill set and resume, but has a foreign birth certificate. How may American doctors make 5% of what their Indian colleagues in the same hospital make?

  2. Old Gator - Dec 5, 2013 at 10:00 AM

    Too bad Captain Tony isn’t around anymore. He would have spirited them out of Cuba in a Donzi full of cohibas and world-class rum, taken an agent’s commission for the ballplayers and unloaded the booze and smokes on the black market for a princely sum. Who knows, he might even have used some of it to disinfect the vomit smell from the cracks in the floorboards of his otherwise classic saloon in Key West.

  3. mikhelb - Dec 5, 2013 at 3:40 PM

    It sounds and awful lot like the classic “cubanada” (in spanish speaking countries it is a derogatory term = it is when you agree to help somebody in exchange for something, and after helping them, they refuse to comply with the part of their deal), it is not the first time something like that has happened: a young baseball player from Cuba seeks help from somebody to smuggle him out of Cuba in exchange for a percentage or certain amount of money once he signs with a MLB team. The player signs and sues the people who helped him to put them in jail and not pay them because now they consider that smuggling them out of their country was illegal.

    In recent years it happened with Chapman, and from what it is known, Puig applied it at least 8 times (but in his case, he convinced people in of Cuba to smuggle him, then he “ratted” them out to the Cuban government to gain certain privileges for him and his family, that after the first time he was caught trying to leave Cuba… it is rumored he was allowed to leave Cuba to go to México and then the US after he collaborated to put in jail quite a few “enemies of the Cuban state”).

    One of the many theories to explain that, is the fact that there’s laws in Cuba to give people incentives when they denounce somebody of planning something considered illegal (conspiracy) in Cuba against the government (with alleged special incentives if they denounce members of their own family).

    Or maybe it is just another bizarre story of a Cuban player suing/being sued.

    • mikhelb - Dec 5, 2013 at 3:51 PM

      On the other hand it should be fairly easy to get info about that company to discover their past fraud schemes, each and every transaction is recorded by law and kept for various years with what in the US would be IRS (in México = Hacienda). In cases involving fraud and other serious crimes, contrary to US popular belief, the mexican law really does its job in federal crimes (with penalties even stronger than in the US, specially in kidnap and drug related crimes, whereas in Mexico a normal penalty runs from 35 to 50 years and in the US a few years or none if bail is paid).

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