Sports Agent Charged in Cuban Baseball-Player Smuggling Scheme

Plan Involved Go-Fast Boats, Safe Houses in California

Oct. 31, 2006 —

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced today the indictment of Beverly Hills, Calif., sports agent Gustavo "Gus" Dominguez, charging him with smuggling potential Major League baseball players from Cuba to the United States.

The indictment, unsealed today in a Miami federal court, alleges that Dominguez, along with four others, conspired to use go-fast boats to smuggle Cubans to the United States and to house and shelter Cuban baseball players in California.

According to the indictment, "It was the purpose and object of the conspiracy for the defendants to unlawfully enrich themselves by smuggling Cuban Major League baseball prospects as well as other Cuban nationals."

"The ringleaders put the lives of illegal immigrants at risk and sought to profit from their labor," ICE Assistant Secretary Julie Myers said in a statement. "It is unfortunate that those who claim to support Major League Baseball taint America's pastime with these illegal human smuggling operations."

Below is the full report from The Associated Press:

MIAMI (AP) - A baseball players agent illegally smuggled Cuban players into the United States, eventually shipping them to California in hopes that they would be signed by major league teams, federal immigration officials said Tuesday.

The agent, Gustavo "Gus" Dominguez, is charged with paying four aides to transport the athletes and other Cubans to the U.S. in two trips from the island nation. Dominguez, of California-based Total Sports International, has represented several Cuban baseball defectors, including Andy Morales, who was signed into the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox minor league systems after fleeing Cuba six years ago.

Also charged in the 53-count federal indictment were Geoffrey Rodrigues, Robert Yosvany Hernandez, Ramon Batista, and Guillermo Valdez.

Julie Myers, an assistant secretary of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in a statement that "though this case involves a Beverly Hills sports agent and talented baseball players, it is remarkably similar to the human smuggling operations that ICE encounters every day. The ringleaders put the lives of illegal immigrants at risk and sought to profit from their labor." Calls to the agency were not immediately returned.

Dominguez's assistant, who would not give his full name, said Total Sports would not comment and he wouldn't clarify the relationship of the four other defendants or whether they worked for the company. A message left on Dominguez's voicemail was not immediately returned.

It was not known whether any of the defendants had obtained attorneys.

Prosecutors say Rodrigues and Dominguez traveled by boat to Cuba on July 28, 2004, and loaded 22 Cubans aboard, but were intercepted by U.S. authorities at sea. Less than a month later, on Aug. 22, 2004, authorities say the two men successfully brought 19 Cubans into the country.

According to the indictment, the defendants transported the athletes to Los Angeles by van, rented an apartment for them, provided them with food and clothing and began training them. It could not be immediately determined if any of the Cubans have been signed by major league teams.

All five men are charged with conspiracy to bring immigrants illegally into the U.S., transporting them in violation of the law and concealing and harboring them from detection.

Dominguez, Rodrigues and Hernandez are also charged with immigrant smuggling; Dominguez, Batista and Valdez face a charge of transporting, concealing and harboring from detection illegal immigrants; and Rodrigues is accused of assaulting ICE agents when his boat was intercepted.