A wannabe baseball agent who referred foreign players to a high-profile steroid dealer was sentenced to three months on Tuesday, after a judge said he was one of the least guilty among the offenders in a South Florida ring.
Juan Carlos Nuñez got the benefit of the doubt from U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga after his attorney and prosecutors agreed to the three-month prison term, followed by three months of house arrest.
“He’s one of the least culpable of the defendants,” Altonaga said in Miami federal court.
Nuñez, 48, came to know Coral Gables steroid dealer Anthony Bosch in late 2011 during a transaction to buy a car for one of the players that Nuñez personally assisted, Dominican pitcher Jordan Norberto. Nuñez became the South Florida middle man between Bosch and several pro baseball players from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela.
Last month, Bosch, who posed as a real doctor, was sentenced by another federal judge to four years in prison — the longest term of the six defendants convicted in the steroid-distribution case that shook up Major League Baseball. Two other defendants face trial in early April.
As a result of the scandal, 14 Major League Baseball players — including Norberto — received lengthy suspensions in 2013 because they used banned steroids purchased from Bosch and his Coral Gables clinic, Biogenesis of America. The biggest name among Bosch’s customers: New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez, a former Miami-Dade high school standout, who was slapped with a record suspension of 162 games.
At Tuesday’s sentencing, Nuñez apologized to the judge, his family and Major League Baseball for referring several Dominican and Venezuelan ballplayers to Bosch’s steroid clinic. As he choked up, the Broward County resident said he stained the “honor of the game.”
“I deeply regret my actions,” said Nuñez, sitting alongside his defense attorney, Michael Matters. “This situation has turned my world upside down.”
In December, Nuñez pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute testosterone under an agreement with prosecutors Pat Sullivan and Sharad Motiani.
Nuñez admitted that he came to know and assist some of the foreign ballplayers implicated in the steroid controversy while he was working for a New York-based sports agency, ACES Inc. He received a finder's fee from the agency for every player who signed a major league contract, and he would take care of their personal needs.
Nuñez, who became a “limited” MLB player agent, told the ballplayers that he knew a “ ‘doctor’ who could help them feel and play better,” according to a statement filed with his plea agreement. “Nuñez never told the MLB players who the doctor was, just that he knew the doctor and that the doctor was very good.”