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Thread: Baseball Fraudsters Banned !

  1. #1
    HURRAY FOR USCIS FOR KEEPING THESE DIRTBAGS OUT !!!

    EXCELLENT JOB USCIS !!!!
    -----------------------------
    Role In Marriage Fraud Ruins Dreams For Rangers' Prospects
    March 10th, 2008 "’ Related "’ Filed Under
    Related Post
    Mets' Martinez, Wife Committed To Making A Difference In Dominican Republic
    Kinsler Gets Five-Year, $22 Million Deal From Rangers
    Filed Under: Featured "’ Locker Room
    Tags: Alex Ogando "’ Dominican Republic "’ Jon Daniels "’ Omar Beltre "’ Texas Rangers "’ Tom Hicks

    On Jan. 30, Omar Beltre, a tremendously talented Texas Rangers prospect, loaded his car for the biggest assignment of his career.

    A day earlier, Aguilas, one of two teams from the Dominican Republic to qualify for the prestigious Caribbean Series, added the 26-year-old right-hander to its roster.

    Rangers general manager Jon Daniels, visiting the team's Dominican player academy, walked delicately across the complex's gravel parking lot toward Beltre bearing bad news.

    Daniels spoke to Beltre quietly for a few moments. Then Beltre dropped his equipment bag and began to cry.

    Beltre's application for a U.S. work visa had been rejected. Again.

    That made four consecutive years that Beltre and fellow Rangers pitching prospect Alexi Ogando, 24, have been denied entry into the United States because of their roles in a marriage fraud scandal in 2004 that involved approximately 30 Dominican minor leaguers.

    Since then, Rangers officials say they have explored every legal avenue. Most of the players involved in the scheme have since been released by their major league teams.

    The Rangers say they were led to believe Beltre and Ogando would serve a year's penalty, then be free to come to the United States in 2005. Instead, the club might be within weeks of surrendering its own fight and selling the players' contracts to clubs in countries where they would be free to enter.

    That's what Daniels told Beltre.

    "He's served his time," Daniels said. "So far, no one with the necessary power will hear his story. To explain that to him after everything he's done to make it right. ... Wow, [it's] a lot more difficult than anything I have to do here normally.

    "The weight of it all was too much for him. He broke down, and I had to catch myself from doing the same."

    Had the visa fraud not happened, Beltre and Ogando might be vying now for spots on the Rangers' big league staff. They're instead at home in one of the hemisphere's most impoverished countries, trying to support large families while eligible for only minor league earnings.

    "I try to keep my mind positive," Beltre said. "I never give up. I think everybody makes mistakes, but they should also have a second chance."
    Husbands for hire

    In the winter of 2004, a man whom many of the currently banned ballplayers came to know as Wilfredo began showing up at their doors unannounced. He had a simple business proposition.The players could earn some extra cash, usually about $3,000, by simply filling out some paperwork and agreeing to appear to marry certain women. Dominicans who play baseball for major league organizations annually receive work visas to enter the country.

    For the women, it would be the best way to enter the United States. After the women's visas were secured, the players and the women could go their separate ways.

    Wilfredo was sometimes accompanied by a buscon, a local baseball street agent who knew the player. Players say Wilfredo made frequent visits and was sometimes accompanied by an employee of a major league team.

    Ogando, then a 21-year-old outfielder in Oakland's farm system, said Wilfredo first offered money on his fourth visit.

    "He told me it would be no problem, that it gets done all the time," Ogando said. "My mom and my uncle both told me not to do it, but I didn't know what the consequences would be. But family depended on me, and that was all I thought about – getting some extra money to help out."

    Ogando said Wilfredo was accompanied on some visits by a man named Chicho, who had done some work for the Oakland organization. Rene Oriental, a former outfielder with the Kansas City organization who lives in the small batey or village near the Rangers' Dominican academy, offered a similar account. He said Wilfredo approached him and was persistent. After initial misgivings, Oriental also agreed – and received enough money up front to pay for the marriage paperwork and visa applications.

    Rangers reliever Joaquin Benoit said he was also approached about a scam marriage but rejected the offer.

    The problems for Beltre and Ogando started when they went to the U.S. embassy in January 2005 to pick up their work visas. According to the Rangers' information, consulate officials soon discovered an inordinate number of young minor league ballplayers had been married in a short period of time to women who had previously been denied visas. It raised red flags.

    When the players went back to pick up their work visas, consulate officials were waiting.

    "They said, ˜Just tell us the truth,' " Ogando recalled. "They told me, ˜You may lose your career because of this, so right now you might as well come clean.' "

    Beltre and Oriental tell similar stories. Beltre, who was 23 at the time, said he also quickly admitted he had made a mistake.

    Their visa applications and those of their "wives" were rejected. They never received the promised money. They haven't seen or heard from Wilfredo since.

    The Rangers immediately tried to intervene on Beltre's behalf. Ogando's plight became part of their effort after they obtained him in the Rule 5 draft in December 2005 and converted him to a pitcher. It's likely Oakland made Ogando available because of his legal problem.

    The players and the Rangers say they were told by government officials the probable penalty would be a one-year exclusion. Apply again next year, they said they were told.

    "I was disappointed that he had made a mistake," Daniels said of Beltre. "It was a short-sighted decision on his part. At the time, it seemed like appropriate punishment."

    In spring 2006, Beltre and Ogando were denied again. In 2007, as more and more teams were cutting ties to players involved, the Rangers applied for special visa waivers. Those were also denied.

    Both players were included on the Rangers' 40-man roster, which qualified them for membership in the major league players union. Daniels said he contacted the players association and Major League Baseball but received little help from their lobbyists.

    The Rangers believe certain public perceptions, in sports and beyond, worked against them. Baseball was already under scrutiny for steroid abuse. And the political mood across the country had turned very anti-immigration.

    "The environment was not conducive to getting much help," Daniels said.

    Team owner Tom Hicks, well-connected in the Republican Party, wrote to political friends on the players' behalf but got nowhere.

    The U.S. State Department and the Department of Homeland Security have taken hard-line approaches to immigration fraud. The State Department lists the Dominican Republic as a "Tier 2 – Watch List" country, meaning it's "a source, transit and destination country for men, women and children trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labor."

    "We have heard that someone ˜put the players up to it,' " David Searby, spokesman for the U.S. embassy in the Dominican Republic, wrote in an e-mail. "We take this accusation very seriously. Nevertheless, the visa applicants themselves are the ones who attempted to smuggle women into the U.S. though sham marriages and bear the consequences of their fraudulent actions. They presented the marriage documents, asserted these were genuine marriages and signed the visa applications. Regardless of whether they were ˜put up to it' or not, they are ineligible for visas because of their actions."

    A cynic could describe Daniels' passion about resolving this problem as self-serving. Beltre received a $600,000 bonus in 2000, the largest the Rangers have ever given a Latin American teen, and might be advanced enough to compete for a job in the major leagues this spring. The rail-thin Ogando, who has pitched for two years, has hit 100 mph on radar guns.

    Beltre and Ogando each pitched last year in the Dominican Summer League, which is comprised primarily of teenagers. The Rangers send their Latin signees there before they're ready to move to the United States. Beltre was 2-0 with a 1.17 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 30 innings. Ogando was 6-1 with a 0.96 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 28 innings.

    The competition is tougher in the Dominican Winter League, which features some major leaguers. Last winter, Beltre went 4-3 with a 2.03 ERA.

    Benoit and Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz were among Beltre's teammates during the Caribbean Series. They say he would be in the major leagues this year.

    "He's got nasty stuff," Cruz said. "He hits 97 with the fastball, and he's got a good slider."

    Beltre and Ogando are the sole wage earners in their families. Beltre lives with eight relatives in a three-room house. Ogando, who had no big bonus to fall back on, supports his parents and two small sisters with his minor league pay that averages less than $2,000 a month.

    "Selfishly, we think these guys can help us," Daniels said. "If Omar had been in the country last year, I have little doubt in my mind that he'd have been in the big leagues at some point. But, forget about the baseball player – this is the right thing to do.

    "I have complete respect for the laws and borders of our country. These guys are being treated as terrorists. I know everybody's got their own story, but I have personal knowledge of their stories and it would be a shame if they are punished for the rest of their lives for this mistake. To me, these guys are as much a victim of this crime as a perpetrator."

    What might be the Rangers' last step is to try to get the government to pursue the ringleaders of the marriage fraud scandal. They are offering their players' testimony if they can get them paroled into the country on witness waivers.

    The Rangers hired Hipolito Acosta, a former Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer, to conduct the investigation. Using his former contacts, Acosta has tried to entice the government into pursuing the case. The hope is that with the information the Rangers have to offer, the government could effectively put a stop to these kinds of rings.

    During his trip to the Dominican, Daniels approached embassy officials with the information that Acosta gathered. While the meeting was cordial, he said, he did not get a sense the embassy was interested. Daniels also said he believes the interest from Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been lukewarm at best. Carl Rusnok, spokesman for the agency's Dallas office, would not confirm if the office has opened an investigation into the matter.

    Charles Foster, an immigration attorney in Houston, said the Rangers have taken the right approach.

    "It sounds like these guys were pawns," Foster said. "But I think this is a tough situation to begin with. It is more difficult right now to obtain waivers. For the first time in my life, immigration has been elevated to a point where it's part of the public discourse. It's a new development in the post-9/11 world. The climate we're a part of right now is one in which people are scared."

    In this case, no one is more scared than Omar Beltre and Alexi Ogando. They might be just weeks away from seeing their dreams of becoming major leaguers shattered once and for all.

    "They lied to me and deceived me, and I've been punished," Ogando said of those with whom he made the deal. "I made a big mistake, but I've been paying for it. I think I've paid enough. I just hope I get a second chance.

    - Evan Grant, Dallas Morning News
    These people stop at Nothing !

    Death to IMBRA AND VAWA !

    God Bless America and no one else !!!

  2. #2
    HURRAY FOR USCIS FOR KEEPING THESE DIRTBAGS OUT !!!

    EXCELLENT JOB USCIS !!!!
    -----------------------------
    Role In Marriage Fraud Ruins Dreams For Rangers' Prospects
    March 10th, 2008 "’ Related "’ Filed Under
    Related Post
    Mets' Martinez, Wife Committed To Making A Difference In Dominican Republic
    Kinsler Gets Five-Year, $22 Million Deal From Rangers
    Filed Under: Featured "’ Locker Room
    Tags: Alex Ogando "’ Dominican Republic "’ Jon Daniels "’ Omar Beltre "’ Texas Rangers "’ Tom Hicks

    On Jan. 30, Omar Beltre, a tremendously talented Texas Rangers prospect, loaded his car for the biggest assignment of his career.

    A day earlier, Aguilas, one of two teams from the Dominican Republic to qualify for the prestigious Caribbean Series, added the 26-year-old right-hander to its roster.

    Rangers general manager Jon Daniels, visiting the team's Dominican player academy, walked delicately across the complex's gravel parking lot toward Beltre bearing bad news.

    Daniels spoke to Beltre quietly for a few moments. Then Beltre dropped his equipment bag and began to cry.

    Beltre's application for a U.S. work visa had been rejected. Again.

    That made four consecutive years that Beltre and fellow Rangers pitching prospect Alexi Ogando, 24, have been denied entry into the United States because of their roles in a marriage fraud scandal in 2004 that involved approximately 30 Dominican minor leaguers.

    Since then, Rangers officials say they have explored every legal avenue. Most of the players involved in the scheme have since been released by their major league teams.

    The Rangers say they were led to believe Beltre and Ogando would serve a year's penalty, then be free to come to the United States in 2005. Instead, the club might be within weeks of surrendering its own fight and selling the players' contracts to clubs in countries where they would be free to enter.

    That's what Daniels told Beltre.

    "He's served his time," Daniels said. "So far, no one with the necessary power will hear his story. To explain that to him after everything he's done to make it right. ... Wow, [it's] a lot more difficult than anything I have to do here normally.

    "The weight of it all was too much for him. He broke down, and I had to catch myself from doing the same."

    Had the visa fraud not happened, Beltre and Ogando might be vying now for spots on the Rangers' big league staff. They're instead at home in one of the hemisphere's most impoverished countries, trying to support large families while eligible for only minor league earnings.

    "I try to keep my mind positive," Beltre said. "I never give up. I think everybody makes mistakes, but they should also have a second chance."
    Husbands for hire

    In the winter of 2004, a man whom many of the currently banned ballplayers came to know as Wilfredo began showing up at their doors unannounced. He had a simple business proposition.The players could earn some extra cash, usually about $3,000, by simply filling out some paperwork and agreeing to appear to marry certain women. Dominicans who play baseball for major league organizations annually receive work visas to enter the country.

    For the women, it would be the best way to enter the United States. After the women's visas were secured, the players and the women could go their separate ways.

    Wilfredo was sometimes accompanied by a buscon, a local baseball street agent who knew the player. Players say Wilfredo made frequent visits and was sometimes accompanied by an employee of a major league team.

    Ogando, then a 21-year-old outfielder in Oakland's farm system, said Wilfredo first offered money on his fourth visit.

    "He told me it would be no problem, that it gets done all the time," Ogando said. "My mom and my uncle both told me not to do it, but I didn't know what the consequences would be. But family depended on me, and that was all I thought about – getting some extra money to help out."

    Ogando said Wilfredo was accompanied on some visits by a man named Chicho, who had done some work for the Oakland organization. Rene Oriental, a former outfielder with the Kansas City organization who lives in the small batey or village near the Rangers' Dominican academy, offered a similar account. He said Wilfredo approached him and was persistent. After initial misgivings, Oriental also agreed – and received enough money up front to pay for the marriage paperwork and visa applications.

    Rangers reliever Joaquin Benoit said he was also approached about a scam marriage but rejected the offer.

    The problems for Beltre and Ogando started when they went to the U.S. embassy in January 2005 to pick up their work visas. According to the Rangers' information, consulate officials soon discovered an inordinate number of young minor league ballplayers had been married in a short period of time to women who had previously been denied visas. It raised red flags.

    When the players went back to pick up their work visas, consulate officials were waiting.

    "They said, ˜Just tell us the truth,' " Ogando recalled. "They told me, ˜You may lose your career because of this, so right now you might as well come clean.' "

    Beltre and Oriental tell similar stories. Beltre, who was 23 at the time, said he also quickly admitted he had made a mistake.

    Their visa applications and those of their "wives" were rejected. They never received the promised money. They haven't seen or heard from Wilfredo since.

    The Rangers immediately tried to intervene on Beltre's behalf. Ogando's plight became part of their effort after they obtained him in the Rule 5 draft in December 2005 and converted him to a pitcher. It's likely Oakland made Ogando available because of his legal problem.

    The players and the Rangers say they were told by government officials the probable penalty would be a one-year exclusion. Apply again next year, they said they were told.

    "I was disappointed that he had made a mistake," Daniels said of Beltre. "It was a short-sighted decision on his part. At the time, it seemed like appropriate punishment."

    In spring 2006, Beltre and Ogando were denied again. In 2007, as more and more teams were cutting ties to players involved, the Rangers applied for special visa waivers. Those were also denied.

    Both players were included on the Rangers' 40-man roster, which qualified them for membership in the major league players union. Daniels said he contacted the players association and Major League Baseball but received little help from their lobbyists.

    The Rangers believe certain public perceptions, in sports and beyond, worked against them. Baseball was already under scrutiny for steroid abuse. And the political mood across the country had turned very anti-immigration.

    "The environment was not conducive to getting much help," Daniels said.

    Team owner Tom Hicks, well-connected in the Republican Party, wrote to political friends on the players' behalf but got nowhere.

    The U.S. State Department and the Department of Homeland Security have taken hard-line approaches to immigration fraud. The State Department lists the Dominican Republic as a "Tier 2 – Watch List" country, meaning it's "a source, transit and destination country for men, women and children trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labor."

    "We have heard that someone ˜put the players up to it,' " David Searby, spokesman for the U.S. embassy in the Dominican Republic, wrote in an e-mail. "We take this accusation very seriously. Nevertheless, the visa applicants themselves are the ones who attempted to smuggle women into the U.S. though sham marriages and bear the consequences of their fraudulent actions. They presented the marriage documents, asserted these were genuine marriages and signed the visa applications. Regardless of whether they were ˜put up to it' or not, they are ineligible for visas because of their actions."

    A cynic could describe Daniels' passion about resolving this problem as self-serving. Beltre received a $600,000 bonus in 2000, the largest the Rangers have ever given a Latin American teen, and might be advanced enough to compete for a job in the major leagues this spring. The rail-thin Ogando, who has pitched for two years, has hit 100 mph on radar guns.

    Beltre and Ogando each pitched last year in the Dominican Summer League, which is comprised primarily of teenagers. The Rangers send their Latin signees there before they're ready to move to the United States. Beltre was 2-0 with a 1.17 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 30 innings. Ogando was 6-1 with a 0.96 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 28 innings.

    The competition is tougher in the Dominican Winter League, which features some major leaguers. Last winter, Beltre went 4-3 with a 2.03 ERA.

    Benoit and Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz were among Beltre's teammates during the Caribbean Series. They say he would be in the major leagues this year.

    "He's got nasty stuff," Cruz said. "He hits 97 with the fastball, and he's got a good slider."

    Beltre and Ogando are the sole wage earners in their families. Beltre lives with eight relatives in a three-room house. Ogando, who had no big bonus to fall back on, supports his parents and two small sisters with his minor league pay that averages less than $2,000 a month.

    "Selfishly, we think these guys can help us," Daniels said. "If Omar had been in the country last year, I have little doubt in my mind that he'd have been in the big leagues at some point. But, forget about the baseball player – this is the right thing to do.

    "I have complete respect for the laws and borders of our country. These guys are being treated as terrorists. I know everybody's got their own story, but I have personal knowledge of their stories and it would be a shame if they are punished for the rest of their lives for this mistake. To me, these guys are as much a victim of this crime as a perpetrator."

    What might be the Rangers' last step is to try to get the government to pursue the ringleaders of the marriage fraud scandal. They are offering their players' testimony if they can get them paroled into the country on witness waivers.

    The Rangers hired Hipolito Acosta, a former Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer, to conduct the investigation. Using his former contacts, Acosta has tried to entice the government into pursuing the case. The hope is that with the information the Rangers have to offer, the government could effectively put a stop to these kinds of rings.

    During his trip to the Dominican, Daniels approached embassy officials with the information that Acosta gathered. While the meeting was cordial, he said, he did not get a sense the embassy was interested. Daniels also said he believes the interest from Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been lukewarm at best. Carl Rusnok, spokesman for the agency's Dallas office, would not confirm if the office has opened an investigation into the matter.

    Charles Foster, an immigration attorney in Houston, said the Rangers have taken the right approach.

    "It sounds like these guys were pawns," Foster said. "But I think this is a tough situation to begin with. It is more difficult right now to obtain waivers. For the first time in my life, immigration has been elevated to a point where it's part of the public discourse. It's a new development in the post-9/11 world. The climate we're a part of right now is one in which people are scared."

    In this case, no one is more scared than Omar Beltre and Alexi Ogando. They might be just weeks away from seeing their dreams of becoming major leaguers shattered once and for all.

    "They lied to me and deceived me, and I've been punished," Ogando said of those with whom he made the deal. "I made a big mistake, but I've been paying for it. I think I've paid enough. I just hope I get a second chance.

    - Evan Grant, Dallas Morning News
    These people stop at Nothing !

    Death to IMBRA AND VAWA !

    God Bless America and no one else !!!

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