MIAMI — A Florida man who pleaded guilty to helping smuggle Los Angeles Dodgers slugger Yasiel Puig out of Cuba was sentenced to one month in prison followed by five months of house arrest, a federal judge ruled on Friday.
Gilberto Suarez received $2.5 million sometime after Puig, now 24, arrived in the United States in 2012 and signed a seven-year, $42 million contract with the Dodgers.
Court records said the money came from a Dodgers player but did not say it was Puig.
Suarez faced up to 10 years in prison for conspiring to bring in or harbor aliens but received a lighter sentence as part of a December plea agreement.
Under the deal, Suarez agreed to hand over a bank account, a house, a condominium, a 2014 Mercedes-Benz and three handguns.
His attorney could not be reached for comment. The sentencing took place in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in Miami.
“It became clear through this case that my client had nothing to do with … smuggling Yasiel Puig and the others out of Cuba,” said Suarez’s lawyer, Bijan Parwaresch.
Suarez’s only involvement was helping Puig’s group get to the U.S. border after they were in danger in Mexico city from corrupt police officers paid by the violent Zetas drug gang, Parwaresch said.
Suarez paid $250,000 to a group connected to a Mexican drug cartel to get Puig from Cuba to Mexico’s east coast, according to the indictment.
He later told the ballplayer to rent a car in Mexico and drive 750 miles to cross into the United States at Brownsville, Texas, the plea agreement said.
Major League Baseball has voiced concerns about human traffickers smuggling Cuban players into United States, although the league also says its policies are not to blame.
One of the latest high-paid players to defect from the island is 27-year-old Rusney Castillo, who was signed by the Boston Red Sox to a seven-year, $72.5 million contract last year.