Los Angeles, CA, United States (4E Sports) – Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig is being hounded by threats from human traffickers who orchestrated his 2012 defection from Cuba to Mexico, a report indicated.
In a report, ESPN The Magazine said the trafficking ring that delivered Puig from Cuba to Mexico was headed by an escaped felony suspect wanted by U.S. authorities, quoting sources.
Sources said the group was awaiting payment from a Miami middleman who arranged the escape, but when that payment was slow in coming, things escalated.
Yunior Despaigne, a childhood friend who was with Puig throughout the escape journey and successful defection, revealed that the group threatened to inflict bodily harm on the outfielder so he could not play baseball again.
“If they didn’t receive the money, they were saying that at any moment they might give him a machetazo (a whack with a machete), chop off an arm, a finger, whatever, and he would never play baseball again, not for anyone.” Despaigne said.
The report uncovers new details about Puig’s harrowing escape from Cuba and the complexities of the illegal human trafficking rings that continue to shuttle major league prospects off the island.
The magazine’s report also explores a civil lawsuit filed in a Florida federal court that accuses Puig of wrongfully accusing a man of attempting to set up a defection.
Much of the information came through interviews with more than 80 sources, in addition to court documents in the civil suits filed against Puig and fellow Cuban Aroldis Chapman, who pitches for the Cincinnati Reds.
According to Despaigne’s account, the future Dodgers right fielder was in physical danger numerous times — diving into dark waters to evade Cuban authorities, hiking through crocodile-infested mangrove swamps and being held captive on an island near Cancun, Mexico.
Puig and three other defectors, including Despaigne, spent several weeks in a guarded apartment on Isla Mujeres, just off the coast of Cancun.
However, a rival ring executed a successful late-night plan to steal Puig and get him to Mexico City.
Once there, Puig was granted residency status in weeks, and after his auditions for scouts from several teams, Puig’s agent at the time, Jaime Torres, announced that the slugger had signed with the Dodgers for $42 million.
Upon receiving his signing bonus, Puig allegedly paid 20 percent of his total contract value to the Florida group that ultimately brought him to the United States in July 2012. After arriving, Puig joined the Dodgers’ farm system and was invited to their 2013 spring training, where he hit .517 in 58 at-bats.
Puig is being sued for $12 million in Florida in an action that alleges he wrongfully accused a man of attempting to set up a prior defection.
The plaintiff, a Cuban citizen, was sentenced to seven years in jail as a result of Puig’s testimony. The suit has been filed in the United States under the Torture Victims Protection Act, a piece of human rights legislation signed by George H.W. Bush in 1992.
In a case similar to Puig’s, a Florida family seeks $18 million from Chapman. Neither Puig nor Chapman has yet been found liable. The Chapman case is scheduled for trial on Nov. 17. The judge in Puig’s suit is deliberating a second motion to dismiss.