Greg Cote

Baseball star offers hard-to-swallow testimony in Miami federal smuggling trial

Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu leaves federal court in Miami after testifying in the trial of two men accused of illegally smuggling Cuban baseball players into the United States.
Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu leaves federal court in Miami after testifying in the trial of two men accused of illegally smuggling Cuban baseball players into the United States. Associated Press

Does the risk of indigestion from eating one’s passport increase if the document is a fake? And what drink might pair best with this unusual delicacy? A robust cabernet sauvignon, perhaps?

These were questions invited Thursday by the testimony of Chicago White Sox star Jose Abreu in the Miami federal-court trial of two men charged with illegally smuggling Cuban baseball players into the United States. Player agent Bartolo Hernandez and baseball trainer Julio Estrada are on trial in the ongoing case, with Abreu among several major-league players, including Marlins shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, who have been called to testify.

Abreu, believed to be 30, testified he used a fake Haitian passport to board an Air France flight to Miami in 2013, but had been warned to get rid of the illegal passport en route, because the U.S. Cuban immigration policy at the time would permit him to remain the country without travel documentation.

The bulk of the passport he disposed of in a plane bathroom. He was a bit more creative with the page that contained his identification -- his fake Haitian name and photo.

“I went back to my seat, I ordered a beer -- a Heinekin beer,” he testified. “And then, little by little, I swallowed that first page of the passport.”

Abreu, a first baseman who lives in Kendall, was 2014 AL Rookie of the Year and in three seasons has hit 91 home runs, drive in 308 runs and batted .299. Like other players Abreu received limited immunity for his testimony and will not be prosecuted if his testimony is found to have been truthful.

The trial is expected to last several more weeks.

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