MIAMI — Former baseball star Pedro Guerrero told an informant working for the federal Drug Enforcement Administration that he would guarantee payment of a $200,000 cocaine shipment being arranged by a family friend, a prosecutor told a jury Wednesday.
Federal prosecutor Russell Killinger said during opening statements of Guerrero's drug conspiracy trial that the former slugger for the Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals guaranteed the payment during a meeting with the informant and an undercover DEA agent. He repeated that guarantee later during a recorded phone conversation with the informant, Killinger said.
"Mr. Guerrero knew exactly what this deal was about," Killinger said.
But Milton Hirsch, Guerrero's attorney, said that is simply untrue. He said the four-time National League all-star and co-most valuable player of the 1981 World Series was duped by his friend, Adan "Tony" Cruz, who was also arrested and is being tried separately.
Hirsch said Guerrero, 43, dropped out of sixth grade in his native Dominican Republic, has an IQ of 70--borderline retarded--and is unable to accomplish normal adult activities like write a check, purchase insurance or even make a bed. He said the Miami resident receives a small weekly allowance from his wife and his only skill was hitting a baseball.
"The accusation that Pedro Guerrero could finance and underwrite a drug deal is ludicrous," Hirsch said. "He doesn't have the acumen or the ability to finance anything more complicated than lunch."
Guerrero, who retired from baseball in 1992, and Lary Mercedes, another friend of Cruz's, are being tried for attempting to purchase cocaine with the intent to distribute and conspiracy. Both have pleaded innocent. Nelson Rodriguez, Mercedes' attorney, told the jury his client took no part in the attempt to purchase cocaine.
Killinger told the jury that Cruz met with a DEA informant in Colombia last September and told him he wanted to purchase cocaine to sell in Miami.
Later that month, Cruz was contacted in Miami by another DEA informant who agreed to meet with him to discuss the possible sale, Killinger said. It was during this meeting that Cruz told the informant that his "uncle" would guarantee payment for 33 pounds--15 kilograms--of cocaine.
On Sept. 29, Cruz, Guerrero, two informants and undercover DEA agent Nestor La Serna met at a Miami restaurant. Killinger said one informant, wearing a hidden tape recorder, told Guerrero that he was going to be selling Cruz 15 "little animals" and that he understood Guerrero was guaranteeing payment.
"If he doesn't show up, I'll take care of that," Guerrero allegedly replied.
The next day, Killinger said, the informant told Guerrero on the phone that the cocaine was to be delivered shortly and "you're on the hook if [Cruz] doesn't pay."
"Fine, fine, OK, no problem," Guerrero allegedly replied.
Guerrero was arrested at his home later that night, following Cruz's apprehension while allegedly trying to pick up the drugs.