By LAURA MYERS
KEY WEST, Florida (Reuters) – A federal judge sentenced U.S. sports agent Gustavo “Gus” Dominguez to five years in prison on Monday for smuggling potential major-league baseball players out of Cuba.
U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore ordered the prison term for Dominguez, the 48-year-old co-founder of California-based Total Sports International Inc.
Dominguez, who has represented dozens of Cuban defectors and other major league players, was convicted in April of smuggling five prospects out of Cuba to the Florida Keys and then on to California, where he shopped them to potential teams.
The case was believed to be the first directly linking smuggling with the business of baseball, which is Cuba’s national sport as well as the traditional U.S. national pastime.
In addition to five years behind bars, the judge ordered Dominguez to serve three years probation and to pay a $2,100 fine.
Defense attorneys J. Stephen Salter and Ben Kuehne, pleading for leniency, had earlier cited scores of letters, including one written by Hall of Fame pitching great Sandy Koufax, supporting Dominguez.
“I have always considered Gus to be a person of strong character and high moral principles. He has an unshakable love for his culture and does his best to serve as a role model to the players he represents, especially Latin players,” Koufax wrote to Moore.
Updated on Monday, July 9, 2007 7:05 pm EDT