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In the mid-2000s, federal law enforcement agencies started taking intense interest in the smuggling of Cuban players. Under code names Operation Boys of Summer, Operation Safety Squeeze and Operation Sisyphus, agents with the FBI and Department of Homeland Security worked a series of investigations aimed, in part, at determining whether MLB team employees were doing business with human smugglers.
In interviews with The Post, two retired federal prosecutors who oversaw previous investigations accused MLB of ignoring obvious signs of the corruption they believe the league’s rules incite across Latin America. Under rules collectively bargained between the league and the MLB Players Association, a Cuban who defects to the United States has to enter the MLB draft, where salaries are suppressed, while a Cuban who defects elsewhere is declared a free agent and can sign with the highest bidder.
“MLB’s own rules and regulations . . . encourage the smuggler and fraudsters to go through the charade,” said Patrick Sullivan, a retired former assistant U.S. Attorney who oversaw the 2017 prosecution of Hernandez and trainer Julio Estrada.
In 2016, one of those investigations led to the indictments of Bart Hernandez, a Cuban native and sports agent based in Florida, and Julio Estrada, a trainer of Cuban players. Their trial introduced evidence showing the rampant fraud around Cubans entering the major leagues, and raised questions about whether team and league officials ignored obvious red flags noticed years later by federal agents...
In Mexico, according to courtroom testimony, Hernandez partnered with gangsters nicknamed “Nacho” and “Tony Montana.”
"It was met with, basically, he didn't want to talk about that. He didn't want me to tell him that. I just basically said, 'Well that's why we want an electronic strike zone.'" -- Ben Zobrist