Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu of Cuba offered testimony before a federal jury in Miami Wednesday and admitted to eating part of his fake passport during his flight to the U.S. to cover up his illegal travel in a smuggling operation.
Abreu said that he ordered a Heineken on his Air France flight from Haiti to Miami and gradually disposed of a page from his fake documents that contained a false name with his own photo, the Associated Press reports.
“Little by little I swallowed that first page of the passport. I could not arrive in the United States with a false passport,” Abreu said before the jurors.
The 2014 American League rookie of the year, claimed that he chose to travel illegally because he worried he would miss an October 2013 deadline and lose his $68 million contract with the Chicago team.
Abreu delivered his testimony during the trial of Florida-based sports agent Bartolo Hernandez and baseball trainer Julio Estrada on Wednesday, the AP reports. The two allegedly organized a smuggling operation to bring Cuban players to third countries in order to sign Major League Baseball contracts after establishing residency. They are both facing charges for alien smuggling and conspiracy.
Abreu testified under a grant of limited immunity for his illegal conduct and will not be prosecuted so long as he tells the truth before the court.
The White Sox star told the jury he received his fake passport in Haiti, where he and his family were taken by speedboat from Cuba in August 2013. His “main contact and fixer” there was a man named Amin Latouff, who was indicted with Hernandez and Estrada but not arrested.
Abreu claimed that Latouff got him the fake Haitian passport and booked the Air France flight, although the ballplayer said it was his own idea to get the illegal travel document. Latouff was also the one who instructed Abreu to destroy the document during his flight to America.
The White Sox first baseman testified that Hernandez and his partners negotiated his deal with Chicago. Estrada handled his training, lodging and other needs while Abreu was in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.. After all was said and done, Estrada’s company, Total Baseball, would be paid 20 percent of Abreu’s contract and Hernandez would get five percent, the AP reports.
Several other Cuban ballplayers have testified during the trial which has been going on for about a month. Abreu was given time off from White Sox spring training in order to testify. The trial is expected to continue for several more weeks.