Per an article by Ben Strauss for The New York Times, Bart Hernandez, agent for the Cuban outfielder Leonys Martin, has been indicted by a grand jury on charges of human trafficking in Miami. This comes after Martin defected to the United States in 2010. Hernandez, who has represented a number of Cuban players, was arrested and appeared in a Miami federal court this afternoon.
Hernandez faces a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison for his indictment, which contended that he knowing conspired with others to smuggle Martin into the United States for commercial gain. The smuggling came to light in 2012, after Martin was sued by the people who helped him leave Cuba, who claimed that Martin owed them millions of dollars. Martin claims that he and his family were held hostage during contract negotiations with Praver Shapiro Sports Management.
The United States attorney’s office is seeking to recover $1.5 million that Hernandez made in commission from Martin’s $15.5 million contract with the Texas Rangers.
If Hernandez is found guilty, he will be forced to forfeit his commission from the contracts of two other Cuban-born players, Jose Abreu of the White Sox, and Dalier Hinojosa, a minor leaguer for the Phillies. According to the Miami-based magazine OnCuba, 150 baseball players left Cuba in 2015, many of which were trying to sign contracts with major league franchises.
This is news for obvious reasons but comes at a time when relations between Cuba and the United States have been improving, with President Obama planning a trip to the country in the coming months. Additionally, Major League Baseball has engaged in conversations with Cuban authorities about how to bring Cuban players into the states legally. It will be interesting to see how these countries handle their politics and the effect on the game of baseball.