Florida sports agent, baseball trainer convicted of smuggling Cuban ballplayers into the U.S.

Posted at 4:53 PM, Mar 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-15 16:56:54-04

MIAMI (AP) - A Miami jury has convicted a Florida sports agent and a baseball trainer accused of smuggling Cuban ballplayers into the U.S.

The jury verdict Wednesday came after about six weeks of testimony in the trial of Bartolo Hernandez and Julio Estrada on alien smuggling and conspiracy charges.

Neither Hernandez nor Estrada took the stand.

Their lawyers contended prosecutors never proved they were involved in smuggling and insisted the men ran legitimate businesses.

A judge has set sentencing for July 11.

Prosecutors say Hernandez, the agent, faces between three and 15 years in prison and trainer Julio Estrada could get between five and 35 years behind bars.

Prosecution evidence included testimony from several Major League Baseball players detailing their defections from communist Cuba and signing of lucrative free-agent contracts.

Trial evidence included documents containing false information used to obtain players' residency in Mexico and Haiti they needed before coming to the U.S. There was also testimony about attempted kidnappings of players and illegal border crossings.