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Affidavit: Smuggler threats follow Puig from Cuba

Puig Gets Threats Over Defection

MIAMI (AP) -- The smugglers who helped Los Angeles Dodgers star Yasiel Puig leave Cuba on a speedboat have made death threats against him and against a Cuban boxer who says he defected with Puig, according to court documents.

The documents are part of a federal lawsuit in Miami and describe a dangerous odyssey of shady characters, unpaid smuggling debts and threats of violence that have followed Puig since he left Cuba by boat in June 2012.

The tale is based almost entirely on the account of the boxer, Yunior Despaigne, who says he is afraid he will be hurt by the smugglers or their associates if Puig hasn't paid them money he owes. In a 10-page affidavit, Despaigne said a smuggler he knew as "Leo" sent someone to see him in Miami to deliver a message.

"The man pushed me up against my car and pressed a pistol to my liver and told me to tell Puig if he didn't pay them, that they would kill him," Despaigne said. The documents didn't say when the threat occurred.

Puig's smuggling venture, first reported by Los Angeles Magazine, is a common way for Cuban baseball players to make it to U.S. professional leagues. Puig went to Mexico first. If Puig had come directly to the U.S., he would have been subjected to the Major League Baseball draft. By establishing residency in a country such as Mexico, he could negotiate a far more lucrative contract as a free agent.

Puig, a 23-year-old outfielder, signed a $42 million, seven-year contract with the Dodgers in June 2012, a record for a Cuban defector. He received a $12 million signing bonus and made $2 million in his rookie year, when he hit .319 in 104 games with 19 home runs and 42 RBI. He finished second in the voting for National League Rookie of the Year.

Puig's agent, Adam Katz, issued a statement Wednesday saying Puig was aware of the news articles and understood people had questions, but he was not going to comment.

A day later, in a Spanish interview with The Associated Press on Thursday at his locker at San Francisco's AT&T Park, Puig said he was concentrating on helping his teammates and not thinking about anything negative.

"I'm only thinking about working on the things that are going to make me a better ballplayer," said Puig, who was back in the starting lineup for the series finale against the Giants after entering off the bench Wednesday night.

Despaigne's affidavit was filed as part of a lawsuit against Puig in which a man jailed in Cuba claims Puig falsely accused him of human trafficking to curry favor with Cuban authorities in an attempt to rejoin Cuba's national baseball team. Puig had been removed because the Cubans feared he would defect.

Through his lawyers, Puig has denied the man's claims and wants the lawsuit dismissed.

Despaigne said Puig was responsible for several human trafficker arrests in Cuba and that he appeared to be playing both sides to his own advantage.

"Puig told me that if he cooperated with state security, he would be permitted back on the (Cuban national) baseball team," the boxer said. "He appeared to take a strange sort of pride in the number of people he had sent to prison."

Puig's attempts to defect, according the court documents, started in the spring 2011. Despaigne said he got a call from a Miami man named Raul Pacheco, an air conditioning repairman and recycling business owner with past arrests for burglary and credit card fraud, according to public records.

Despaigne said Pacheco and several other men told him they could get Puig out of Cuba in exchange for 20 percent of the ballplayer's future contracts. They needed Despaigne to convey the offer to Puig, which he did, and Puig agreed to the plan.

A call Thursday to a phone number listed for Pacheco was met with a message saying it wasn't accepting voice mail. No number for Despaigne was listed.

Over the following year, Puig and Despaigne tried four times unsuccessfully to leave the communist island, according to the affidavit, including one occasion when their boat was intercepted by a U.S. Coast Guard cutter and they were returned to Cuba. Finally, a group of smugglers with a speedboat took them to Isla Mujeres, a fishing village on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula not far from Cancun.

Despaigne said Pacheco and his investors originally planned to pay the smugglers $250,000, but they decided Puig was worth $400,000. The group stayed at a motel for a month in Isla Mujeres while the two sides haggled over the price. Then, the Miami investors found another group of men to take Puig, Despaigne and others to Mexico City.

A few weeks later, Despaigne crossed the border into Texas and traveled to Miami to stay with one of the investors. It was there he learned, according to his affidavit, about the 20 percent Puig promised to pay them and the smugglers' claims they were still owed money after Puig signed his Dodger contract in June 2012.

After the threat at gunpoint, Despaigne said one of the investors said the smuggler known as "Leo" would be "neutralized." About a month later, Despaigne was told to look up "Leo" on the Internet using his full name - Yandrys Leon - and he found that the man had been shot to death in Cancun.

"I am concerned that something may happen to me," Despaigne said in the affidavit, adding that Puig has severed all ties with him.

Puig's Defection Battle


Associated Press sportswriter Janie McCauley in San Francisco contributed to this report.

Follow Curt Anderson on Twitter: HTTP://TWITTER.COM/MIAMICURT


Join the discussion

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2C62 April 17 2014 at 8:33 PM

So let me see if this is the way it is. You fraudulantly enter the USA, and expect to have all the same rights of legal citizens of this country, just because someone is willing to give you huge money. This dosen't seem right to me. Does the word deportation fit this situation? Is he another illegal alien (oops, I mean undocumented immigrant)?

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2 replies
Rob 2C62 April 17 2014 at 8:48 PM

I could not agree more.

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dino.dominguez 2C62 April 17 2014 at 10:27 PM

he didnt fraudently enter the united states. cubans have different immigration laws were pertaining to entering the united states. All they have to do is touch dry land and become legal.

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2 replies
2C62 dino.dominguez April 18 2014 at 12:50 AM

No, he sliped in by establishing residency in Mexico first. To me, that's being fraudulant, skirting the immigration law.

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jimpiotrowski dino.dominguez April 18 2014 at 5:16 AM

Yes but he touched dry land in Mexico....His using Mexico got him different treatment by MLB...I guess the MLB league does not consider this is a true defection. And I am sure someone here got paid off (perhaps his agent) for figuring the loop hole in MLB.....and it sure seems like human trafficking to me....He should have gotten political asylum in Mexico when he hit ground their....
Obviously, treated differently treated cause of his MLB ties. And obviously, the fact he got a $42,000,000.00 payday as a Rookie here for signing....There was obviously people in baseball trying to get him hear by defection....
Sad that American born Baseball players can not get a payday like that out of college!!!!
MLB RULES ARE RACIST in that Manor....
Any player coming to the big league should be able to have a big pay day if seriously talented
Because they too should be able to earn what they deserve....But, someone with big bucks helped him get here... now he is re niggling on the actual trafficking people..... He should pay up on his empty promise.....If not he is most likely going to end up dead....and there will be Blood on MLB ' S hands for any help this man got from anyone involved in MLB for helping in any way for his defection.
Shame on the Rules of Baseball. And the greed for teams to pay millions for the right to even talk to a ball player from other nations now.
Nothing but a money cow. Yet, American born citizens have to face a minimum wage in their rookie years in MLB.
Certainly not a fair system....change the rules MLB.... Some players that make it have played years and done well at the A, AA, ANA Levels of Baseball and all players deserve to earn what they're able to in the pro's.....they have put their time in for many years of practice to get there!!

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clark April 18 2014 at 8:32 AM

if he did not get here the legal way he gets nothing from me or the country..if he gets dropped in a box by his debt so be it,,the price you pay.....

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2 replies
bigtime93 clark April 18 2014 at 12:03 PM

Google The Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966. Hes here legally.

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azdbacks0712 clark April 18 2014 at 12:14 PM

The Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966 says that anyone who fled Cuba and got into the United States would be allowed to pursue residency a year later. Anyone who makes it to shore gets a chance to remain in the United States, and later would qualify for expedited legal permanent resident status and eventually U.S. citizenship.

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jsuperbowl6 April 18 2014 at 3:08 PM

I have this to say, I get angry at the fact Baseball seams to be nothing more then a safe haven or refuge for defectors . As a former minor league player who was born in the U.S. trying to make the pro's, this type of thing sucks! I hate to see this, I think of all the U.S. born players working hard to try to make it, and then MLB lets these guys come right in illegally and takes a spot away . ALL about the money!! This isn't the first story thats been out lately about players in the league , Im sure there are a lot more. These are dreams were taking away from these boys. Its not right, they should have two leagues if they want to keep doing this. This is American Baseball, sorry that Cuba and other countries don't have a league, but there has to be a line drawn somewhere! The more i watch anymore thats all i see its like im watching the Cuban or Dominican baseball channel. Sorry to those boys , but having been there, im standing up for my Fellow Country Ball Players.

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oujoou April 18 2014 at 10:04 AM

Someone does you a favor. You should be grateful. :( You can say all you want to about just being concerned about being a 'better baseball player.' If those people got you out of Cuba . . . you have a responsibility to pay up. A DEAL is a deal. The guy had no money in Cuba. Now he's rich and is umm . . . this 'aloof' pro athlete? Clearing the debt will clear his mind and he'll be able to concentrate on his sport without having to look over his shoulder. Just saying .. .if I were a disgusting gross human 'trafficker' . . . I'd get him for ironing his pink panties before each game. :(

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eeodjo April 18 2014 at 12:42 AM

There wasn't any time to investigate this Dodger player, Puig. When he first came to the Dodgers, he smoked the league with his bat, his strength, his agile running in the outfield for good defense, and stealing bases. Now, a year and a half, later all this news about his bad ties in Cuba is surfacing in the news. Why do shoddy characters, with bad past, especially from Cuba, gets all the marbles?? We have some young American homemade baseball players, with almost the same abilities as Puig, but they don't even get noticed. And these American kids don't have bad past like Puig.

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1 reply
2C62 eeodjo April 18 2014 at 1:01 AM

Hey, I got a idea. How about a player has to be an AMERICAN RESIDENT for five years BEFORE he can play major league baseball?

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3 replies
l2d3b April 18 2014 at 2:10 AM

He's got the dough and should pay up if he owes.

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mark and sheri April 18 2014 at 3:17 AM

What? Had to be "smuggled" from Cuba? According to Sean Penn and Oliver Stone, and Michael Moore, Cuba is a Workers Paradise with more freedom than US. They can leave anytime they want....right?

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1 reply
JC mark and sheri April 18 2014 at 10:29 AM

I saw video recently of Penn and Moore braving the shark-infested waters of the Florida Strait in order to escape this hellhole and reach the worker's paradise of Cuba. Or did I?

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Douglas Hom MD April 18 2014 at 3:46 AM

If you deal with the devil, you have to give him his due. If this is accurate, and it sounds like it's credible, then pay the money. Compared to future earnings, it's not a lot .. It IS enough to negotiate though so he wouldn't have to pay up the full 20%. In addition, if this is true, then by not paying, Puig is making it harder for anyone left on the island to get off. That's purely selfish... "I've got mine now I don't care if you don't get yours." Sounds a lot like a spoiled ungrateful brat who is risking his career and his life by not adhering to any prior agreements. Wouldn't be surprised or saddened, presuming truth, if Puig did get his just desserts.

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1 reply
bigtime93 Douglas Hom MD April 18 2014 at 12:05 PM

How is it compared to future earnings? They want 20% of everything he makes til hes done.

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al12exb April 18 2014 at 10:22 AM

SOMETHING SMELLS FISHY................................

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Luke April 18 2014 at 1:06 PM


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