Three charged in smuggling, extortion of Rangers player Martin

Dec. 5, 2013 at 12:06 PM   |   Comments

MIAMI, Dec. 5 (UPI) -- Federal prosecutors in Miami have charged three people in a scheme to smuggle Cuban baseball player Leonys Martin Tapanes into Mexico and extort him for money.

Martin, who now plays for the Texas Rangers, has alleged the trio held him and his family hostage until he could get a major league contract and pay a ransom, the Miami Herald reported Wednesday.

Charged with conspiring to smuggle, kidnap and extort Martin are Eliezer Lazo, 40, formerly of Miami Lakes; Joel Martinez Hernandez, 37, formerly of Miami-Dade; and Yillian Hernandez, 30, of Hialeah.

Yillian Hernandez was arrested Wednesday by FBI and Homeland Security agents. Lazo and Martinez are currently in prison after being convicted of money laundering related to Medicare fraud.

The trio also is charged with smuggling 13 other Cuban baseball prospects into the United States by way of Mexico.

In announcing the criminal charges, the U.S. Attorney's Office cited a civil lawsuit filed by Estrellas del Beisbol, a Mexican company in which Lazo and Martinez were part owners.

Estrellas del Beisbol claims in the suit, filed in 2012, it became Martin's management agency after he was smuggled into Mexico from Cuba in 2010. The company claimed Martin violated his agreement to pay Estrellas del Beisbol up to 30 percent of his salary from his multiyear contract with the Rangers.

In a countersuit, Martin accused Lazo, Martinez and others of holding him and his family "hostage" until he got a MLB contract and could pay a "ransom."

The payment was made, Martin said, out of fear for his family, and not because he considered his contract with Estrellas del Beisbol valid.

Martin signed a $15.5 million contract with the Rangers in 2011.

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