Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A Los Angeles sports agent who organized and paid to have five Cuban baseball players smuggled into the United States, where he represented them as their agent, was sentenced yesterday to five years in prison.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokeswoman Kadia H. Koroma said Gustavo “Gus” Dominguez was sentenced in federal court in Key West, Fla., by U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore following his April 12 conviction.

The sentence was the mandatory minimum possible for Dominguez, 48, who had faced the possibility of more than 200 years in federal prison.

The sports agent was charged in an indictment handed up in U.S. District Court in Florida with conspiracy to commit alien smuggling for profit, alien smuggling for profit, bringing aliens to the United States, transporting and harboring aliens for the purpose of commercial advantage and private financial gain.

Dominguez — a former pitcher at Cal State Northridge and co-founder of Total Sports International, based in Encino, Calif. — is the first sports agent to be charged and convicted of alien smuggling.

“This is a prime example of a respected community member using his position to smuggle people into this country illegally, putting lives at risk and compromising the integrity of our borders to make a profit,” said Marcy M. Forman, director of the ICE Office of Investigations. “This sentence tells any others in the human smuggling business that no one is above the law.”

Dominguez’s defense attorney, J. Stephen Salter, said Judge Moore will allow his client to serve his sentence in a “camp-type” facility near his home and participate in a drug and alcohol program to combat what he described as a drinking problem he developed during trial.

The agent also must pay a $2,100 assessment fee — $100 for each guilty verdict — and undergo three years of court supervision once he is released from prison.

Dominguez is expected to surrender voluntarily to prison officials in the next 60 days. The defense has until July 19 to challenge the verdict, which, if it stands, could affect Dominguez’s certification as an agent.

His firm represents several professional baseball players, including Nationals pitcher Jason Simontacchi. Dominguez pioneered the representation of Cuban defectors in pro baseball and has worked with about three dozen in the last 16 years.

Koroma said that according to evidence presented at trial, Dominguez organized two smuggling trips by hiring persons to pick up baseball players in Cuba using go-fast boats. She said government prosecutors established that Dominguez paid for the smuggling of five Cuban baseball players into the United States for the purpose of profiting by subsequently representing them as their sports agent.

She said the first trip in July 2004 failed when the boat was interdicted on its way to the United States by the U.S. Coast Guard. However, a second smuggling trip in August 2004 to Big Pine Key, Fla., was successful.

More than a dozen family members, friends and sports industry representatives wrote to the judge on behalf of Dominguez, including Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax, Simontacchi and Chicago Cubs catcher Henry Blanco.

ICE investigators worked with Major League Baseball officials in the probe, Koroma said. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Benjamin Daniel and Marcus Christian in Florida.

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