Yesterday afternoon a federal jury convicted two South Florida men for their participation in an alien smuggling ring that moved Cuban-born baseball players and their families to third countries and then the United States, without official authorization from the U.S. Government.
Benjamin G. Greenberg, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, and Mark Selby, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), made the announcement.
Bartolo Hernandez, of Weston, and Julio Estrada, of Miami, were convicted at trial of conspiring to commit an offense against the United States, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371, and bringing an alien who has not received official authorization to the United States, in violation of Title 8, United States Code, Section 1324(a)(2)(B)(ii). Hernandez faces a mandatory minimum term of 3 years and a maximum term of 15 years’ imprisonment. Estrada faces a mandatory minimum term of 5 years and a maximum term of 35 years’ imprisonment. The defendants are scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Kathleen M. Williams on July 11, 2017 at 10 a.m.
According to the court record, including evidence introduced during the six-week trial, Hernandez and Estrada conspired with a criminal organization involving boat captains, document forgers and illicit transporters to smuggle Cuban baseball players and those players’ family members out of Cuba into other countries, including Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, before then transporting them to the United States. To expedite obtaining permanent residency in these third countries, Hernandez and Estrada procured residency documents by falsifying employment information and bribing foreign officials. After obtaining the fraudulent foreign residency documents, Hernandez and Estrada submitted those documents to the United States Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Those same fraudulent foreign residency documents were also provided to the United States Department of State, when the Cuban-born baseball players applied for visas to play baseball in the United States.
In some instances, Hernandez and Estrada refused to wait for licenses and visas and instead brought Cuban-born baseball players directly to the United States, without prior official authorization.
Hernandez conspired with alien smugglers to bring Cuban baseball player Leonys Martin Tapanes illegally into the United States across the Texas-Mexico border. Estrada brought Cuban baseball players Omar Luis and Alejandro Piloto into the United States from Haiti, through other countries, into Mexico and then met them after they unlawfully crossed into the United States. Estrada also illegally brought Cuban baseball players Dalier Hinojosa and Jose Abreu into the United States. Hinojosa and Abreu were provided fake passports with fraudulent visas to board flights from Port-au-Prince, Haiti to Miami International Airport by a conspirator of the defendants and were instructed to destroy evidence of those fake passports before arriving in the United States.
Mr. Greenberg commended the investigative efforts of the FBI and ICE-HSI. Mr. Greenberg also thanked the United States State Department and OFAC for their assistance. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Patrick Sullivan and H. Ron Davidson.
Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls.