KEY WEST, FLA. — Chicago White Sox pitcher Jose Contreras pledged $200,000 to finance the smuggling operation that brought his wife and two daughters to Florida from Cuba in June 2004, one of the men involved in planning the trip said in court Tuesday.
Geoffrey Rodrigues, a convicted felon who admitted to participating in two smuggling operations in 2004, testified in federal court that he received $5,000 for recruiting a housemate, Edward Hernandez, to co-pilot the boat that brought Miriam Murillo, the couple's children and seven other friends and relatives to the U.S. Hernandez and Roberto Yosvany, the other pilot, split another $65,000, Rodrigues said, adding that he didn't know whether Contreras ever paid the full $200,000.
Jaime L. Torres, the pitcher's Miami agent, did not respond to calls Tuesday.
Rodrigues was testifying in the trial of Yosvany, who, the government claims, conspired with Chatsworth baseball agent Gus Dominguez to smuggle five baseball players from Cuba to the Florida keys in August 2004. Rodrigues originally faced 24 counts in the same indictment before accepting a plea bargain with prosecutors last month to testify against his former defendants.
Charges were dropped against a fourth man in the case, baseball coach Guillermo Valdez, on Tuesday, the fifth day of the trial.
However, prosecutors continue to try to paint Dominguez, the first prominent baseball agent to be charged with smuggling Cuban ballplayers, as the ringleader of the group. He faces 21 counts of conspiracy, smuggling, transporting and harboring aliens for profit.
-- Kevin Baxter