Jury selection begins in Cuban ballplayer smuggling case

MIAMI (AP) Jury selection is beginning in Miami federal court for a sports agent and an associate charged with illegally smuggling Cuban baseball players from the communist island to the U.S.

Potential jurors will be questioned beginning Monday in the case of Bartolo Hernandez and Julio Estrada, both of whom have pleaded not guilty. Opening statements are expected Wednesday.

A grand jury indictment says Cuban baseball players paid the smuggling ring more than $15 million to leave the Cuba in secretive ventures that included surreptitious boat voyages, fake documents and sometimes threats of violence.

No players are accused of wrongdoing. Players Yoenis Cespedes of the New York Mets, Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox and Adeiny Hechevarria of the Miami Marlins may testify for the prosecution.