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First baseman Jose Abreu came to the United States from Cuba in 2013 and signed a $68 million contract, the largest ever for an international free agent, after a fierce bidding war with several other teams.
More than three years later, Abreu is testifying under a grant of limited immunity during a federal alien smuggling trial about how he was able to travel from Cuba to the United States.
Abreu’s testimony included a bizarre story about how he ate a page out of a fake passport.
Abreu is testifying in a case against agent Bartolo Hernandez and trainer Julio Estrada, who are accused of smuggling players out of Cuba so that they could sign large contracts with Major League Baseball teams. A third man, Amin Latouff, has been indicted in the case, but has not been arrested.
According to the Associated Press, Abreu testified that first received the fake passport from Latouff when he arrived in Haiti on a boat from Cuba. Abreu would later take a flight from Haiti to Miami.
According to Abreu, Latouff told him to destroy the passport while on the plane. However, Abreu testified that he ordered a beer on the flight and slowly ate the page of the passport that included his photo and the fake name.
“Little by little I swallowed that first page of the passport,” Abreu testified. “I could not arrive in the United States with a false passport.”
Once in Miami, Abreu was allowed to remain despite not having any travel documents, thanks to the now-rescinded “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy.
Abreu also testified that Estrada’s company, Total Baseball Representation and Training, received 20% of the money earned in the $68 million contract in exchange for negotiating the deal and providing training and lodging for Abreu.