A man has been sentenced to a month in prison and five months’ house arrest for his role in smuggling Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig into the United States, according to an Associated Press report Friday.
U.S. District Judge Robert Scola on Friday gave Gilberto Suarez, 41, less than the one-year maximum partly because his main role in the 2012 smuggling venture was having Puig driven in a taxi from Mexico City to the Texas border. Other conspirators, including boat captains and members of Mexico’s violent Zetas drug gang, were involved in other stages of the trip.
Defense attorney Bijan Parwaresch said Suarez initially sought only to assist Puig in signing a Major League Baseball contract. Cuban players who defect often establish residency in a third country, such as Mexico, so they can sign lucrative free agent deals rather than smaller contracts if they come directly to the U.S. and are subjected to baseball’s draft.
Where Suarez went wrong, he added, was deciding to take Puig to the U.S. border without immigration papers. Under the “wet foot, dry foot” policy, Cubans who reach U.S. territory are usually permitted to stay, even if their arrival is violates the law.
“It didn’t start out with a criminal intent,” Parwaresch said at a hearing. “It ended up as a criminal action.”