United States v. Estrada, No. 17-15405 (11th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendants' convictions for smuggling four Cuban baseball players into the United States and conspiring to commit crimes against the United States. Defendants, a baseball trainer and a baseball manager, partnered with business professionals, human traffickers, and members of a Mexican criminal organization to smuggle baseball players out of Cuba. The players went to the United States to enter into "free agent" contracts with Major League Baseball (MLB) teams. The players used false residency documents procured from defendants and other co-conspirators to obtain unblocking licenses permitting them to contract with MLB teams. Sometimes the players also relied on the false documents to obtain visas, which allowed them to come to the United States to play baseball.
The court held that the Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA) and the Wet-Foot/Dry-Foot policy did not provide prior official authorization for the Cuban players to come to, enter, or reside in the United States; the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions on the substantive smuggling counts and the conspiracy count; and the district court committed no abuse of discretion in the challenged evidentiary rulings.