LAWFUEL – Law News, Law Jobs – R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Assistant Secretary Julie L. Myers, United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”), Rear Admiral David W. Kunkel, Commander 7th Coast Guard District, and John Beutlich, Director, Air Operation, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Office of Air and Marine, announced today that five individuals, including a sports agent who represents major league baseball players, have been charged in a Superseding Indictment for their participation in a scheme to smuggle prospective major league baseball players into the United States from Cuba. Charged in the 53-count Indictment are defendants Geoffrey Rodrigues, Robert Yosvany Hernandez, Gustavo “Gus” Dominguez, Ramon Batista, and Guillermo Valdez.
The Indictment charges all five defendants with a conspiracy to bring aliens illegally into the United States, transporting the aliens in violation of law, and concealing and harboring the aliens from detection, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371. Dominguez, Rodrigues, and Hernandez are separately charged with alien smuggling, in violation of Title 8, United States Code, Section1324(a)(2)(B)(ii). Rodrigues is charged with assaulting United States Customs and Border Protection Marine Interdiction Agents, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 111(a)(1) and (b). Lastly, defendants Dominguez, Batista, and Valdez are accused of transporting, concealing and harboring from detection the illegal aliens, in violation of Title 8, United States Code, Sections 1324(a)(1)(A)(ii) and (iii).
The alien smuggling conspiracy carries a maximum penalty of 5 years’ imprisonment and a maximum fine of $250,000. The assault of a federal officer carries a maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment and a maximum fine of $250,000. The alien smuggling, transporting of aliens, harboring, and concealing aliens charges each carry a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment and a maximum fine of $250,000.
As alleged in the Superseding Indictment, the conspirators engaged in two separate smuggling ventures to bring into the United States several prospective major league baseball players and other Cuban nationals. Dominguez is a sports agent and the vice-president of a corporation in California that represents professional baseball players. The Superseding Indictment alleges that Dominguez financed the smuggling ventures and paid his co-conspirators for their participation in the scheme. The Superseding Indictment also alleges that the defendants attempted to smuggle and actually smuggled prospective major league baseball players into the United States from Cuba in order to profit from representing the players.
Defendants Geoffrey Rodrigues and Gustavo Dominguez first attempt to smuggle Cuban nationals into the United States was July 28, 2004. According to the charges, the defendants traveled on a boat in the high seas from Monroe County to Cuba and boarded twenty-two (22) Cuban nationals, including several baseball players (Counts 2- 23). This boat was intercepted by law enforcement prior to arriving in the United States. Defendant Rodriguez is charged with assaulting federal officers using a deadly weapon during this encounter (Count 24). Thereafter, on August 22 2004, defendants Rodriguez and Dominguez repeated their efforts to smuggle nineteen (19) Cuban nationals into the United States. Many of the passengers on this trip had been on the failed July 28, 2004 venture. This time, however, the defendants successfully reached land in Monroe County (Counts 25-43). Defendants Rodrigues and Hernandez were the masters and operators of the go-fast boats used in the two smuggling ventures.
According to the charges, after arriving in Monroe County, defendants Batista and Valdez transported the Cuban baseball players in a rented van from Florida to Los Angeles, California. In California, the defendants rented an apartment for the baseball players and provided food and clothing for them. The defendants immediately began training and conditioning the baseball players and failed to present the baseball players to Customs and Border Protection for immigration processing in the United States.
United States Attorney Acosta stated, “Whatever the motivation, alien smuggling is a crime that endangers the lives and safety of migrants and our law enforcement agents alike. We will continue to aggressively prosecute these matters.”
“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. The ringleaders put the lives of illegal immigrants at risk and sought to profit from their labor. It is unfortunate that those who claim to support Major League Baseball taint America’s pastime with these illegal human smuggling operations,” said ICE Assistant Secretary Myers.
“With close cooperation from our law enforcement partners, we have struck a severe blow to professional smugglers, and put them out of business,” said Captain Michael Jett, Chief of Enforcement Branch for the Seventh Coast Guard District.
Mr. Acosta commended the investigative efforts of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Customs and Border Protection – Office of Air and Marine Operations. In addition, Acosta thanked Major League Baseball officials for their cooperation during this investigation. The criminal case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Benjamin Daniel.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. 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.