An incredibly troubling, yet not terribly shocking story has emerged from Florida. According to information attained by Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, Major League Baseball agent Bart Hernandez has been arrested and indicted in Florida on some rather troubling human trafficking charges in relation to Seattle Mariners outfielder Leonys Martin.
The sealed indictment, filed in a Florida federal court Feb. 12, alleges that Hernandez – who now works for Magnus Sports, the agency founded by singer Marc Anthony – conspired with smugglers to bring Martin into the United States in August 2010. He is expected to appear at the U.S. District Court in Miami at 2 p.m. on Friday. If convicted on conspiracy and financial-gain charges, Hernandez faces up to 20 years in prison, with a minimum sentence of three years.
As with any case like this, it needs to be pointed out that these are allegations. Hernandez has not been convicted or even charged with anything.
It also needs to be pointed out that the indictment connects Hernandez with Eliezer Lazo and Joel Martinez Hernandez, both of whom are currently in prison for Medicare Fraud. Lazo is also serving 14 years for extortion conspiracy.
Passan, Charles Robinson and Rand Getlin also detailed frightening allegations in a lawsuit filed more than two years ago by Martin.
In August 2010, Leonys Martin and his family snuck to the shores of Cuba, hopped in a car, moved to a truck, got out and trudged on foot to a 45-foot yacht, sped across perilous waters to Mexico and took a 15-minute van ride to a house where they believed freedom awaited them. Instead, according to a lawsuit filed by Martin, they were introduced to two gun-toting men named Eliezer Lazo and Joel Martinez Hernandez.
“You are worth a lot,” Lazo told Martin, according to the suit. “I am not going to let you go.”
Again, as bad as all of this sounds, it’s unfortunately not surprising.
We’re not even two years removed from Jesse Katz of Los Angeles Magazine detailing the incredibly dangerous journey taken to the United States by Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig.
Players who have emigrated from Cuba to the United States have been very much at the mercy of those who helped get them in, and unfortunately it just takes a few shady people for this element to be introduced.
Passan cited a source saying that “nearly 350 Cuban players are today in the Dominican Republic seeking jobs.” Hernandez represents other players, and while the skill of a player is obviously secondary in a matter as serious as this, he represents players who are flat out better on the field than Leonys Martin.
If the allegations are true and Martin was being held hostage, we could only imagine what other players who were perceived to be of greater skill and financial value were subjected to.
Again, it’s a troubling story, but not surprising. What would be surprising is if this is the last we heard of it.