Feds charge agent with smuggling Cuban players

11/1/2006 - MLB

MIAMI -- An agent for baseball players 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 by the
New York Yankees and later the Boston Red Sox after fleeing Cuba six years

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

"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," Julie Myers,
an assistant secretary of the U.S. Immigration and Customs
Enforcement, said in a statement. "The ringleaders put the lives
of illegal immigrants at risk and sought to profit from their

When reached by ESPN's Mike Fish, Steve Schneider, a partner of Dominguez at Total Sports, said, "The answer is I have no comment. Gus has counsel and he's dealing with the matter. Right now nothing can be said other than no comment . . . For me to say anything right now would be inappropriate. These are allegations. That is all. When things are clarified there might be things to say."

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.

Greg Bouris, spokesman for the players association, said he was unaware of the story and thus had no comment.

It was not known whether any of the defendants had obtained

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 United States, 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.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.