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Ex-White Sox exec pleads guilty to mail fraud
Question of the Day
CHICAGO (AP) - A former Chicago White Sox scouting executive pleaded guilty on Friday in an alleged kickback scheme targeting players from impoverished parts of Latin America hungry to play in the U.S.
David Wilder, 50, of San Francisco, pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud as part of a plea agreement, telling a federal judge in Chicago, “I understand what I have done.”
Prosecutors said he and two others were supposed to pay signing bonuses matching each player’s skills but instead fraudulently inflated the amounts and took the additional money for themselves.
“But we also remain saddened by the betrayal of trust, the involvement of innocent players, the abuse of the system, and the impact his criminal actions inflicted on this organization,” the team said.
Wilder faces up to 20 years in prison, but his plea deal will likely mean a less severe term. He was not taken into custody after the hearing and no sentencing date has been set.
Attorney Thomas Bienert Jr. told reporters after the hearing that his client is remorseful.
“He apologizes to the White Sox and any others that he harmed,” Bienert said.
Wilder and two former scouts for the team in Latin America of accepting about $400,000 to secure 23 prospects between 2004 and 2008, according to the indictment handed down last year.
The White Sox at the time were recruiting in the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Panama, Venezuela and other Latin American nations, though the kickbacks were concealed from the team and its senior official, the indictment said.
Former scouts Jorge L. Oquendo Rivera and Victor Mateo also face mail fraud charges.
The mail fraud counts alleged that checks ranging from $30,000 to $525,000 were sent from the White Sox to players or teams for the contract rights to players.
Robert Grant of the FBI’s Chicago office accused Wilder and the two other allegedly involved of trying enriched themselves by taking advantage of vulnerable ballplayers, who were anxious to pursue their dreams of stardom in the major leagues.
Oquendo, of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, pleaded not guilty in November. A warrant has been issued for the arrest of Mateo, of Arroyo Hondo in the Dominican Republic.
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