Man who financed Yasiel Puig's smuggling out of Cuba to plead guilty in district court

The man accused of having helped arrange for the smuggling of baseball All-Star Yasiel Puig out of Cuba in exchange for a cut of his first contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers as well as millions of dollars in cash, a condominium, a Miami house, and a couple of fancy cars is scheduled to plead guilty on Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Robert Scola set a plea change hearing for 40-year-old South Florida businessman Gilberto Suarez, who had previously pleaded not guilty to an alien smuggling conspiracy charge. The charge carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence.

Investigators say Suarez was one of the Miami-based financiers of the 2012 smuggling venture in which Puig was taken by boat from Cuba to Mexico.

Suarez, 40, entered the plea to a charge of alien smuggling conspiracy during a brief hearing in Miami federal court back in September and was granted release on $120,000 bail. He was arrested by agents with Homeland Security Investigations, an arm of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

An indictment includes few details and only identifies Puig by his initials. But it does seek forfeiture of any money obtained by Suarez from Puig's $42 million contract as well as just under $3 million in cash, a condominium, a Miami house, a 2014 Mercedes-Benz and a 2013 Porsche.

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A civil lawsuit filed in Miami against Puig contains details about Suarez's alleged involvement in the plot.

Those documents describe Suarez as one of the Miami-based men who financed Puig's 2012 trip by boat from Cuba to Isla Mujeres, a fishing village near Cancún, Mexico. The initial price for the trip was $250,000, then was raised by the smugglers to $400,000.

An affidavit in the lawsuit by a Cuban boxer who was on the trip said the financiers eventually hired men to take them away from the smugglers to Mexico City. The boxer, Yunior Despaigne, said in the affidavit that he met Suarez and others while in Mexico City.

Puig, a 23-year-old outfielder, later signed a seven-year, $42 million contract with the Dodgers. After a stellar rookie season in 2013, Puig this year is batting .296 with 16 home runs and 69 runs batted in for the Dodgers.

Based on reporting by the Associated Press.

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