Ex-MLB pitcher Esteban Loaiza gets 3 years in cocaine trafficking case

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SAN DIEGO -- Former Major League Baseball All-Star pitcher Esteban Loaiza was sentenced Friday to three years in federal prison for possessing 44 pounds of cocaine he intended to sell, which authorities found inside a minivan parked at an Imperial Beach townhouse.

The former All-Star pitcher pleaded guilty last August in federal court in San Diego to possessing 44 pounds of cocaine with intent to distribute. He was initially charged by San Diego County prosecutors, but was transferred to federal custody about a month after his February 2018 arrest.

"I would like to apologize to my family and my fans, both in the United States and Mexico," Loiaza said just before being sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Janis Sammartino. "I swear I'm not going to do this kind of thing again. I'm not this type of person."

Loaiza will likely be deported to Mexico following his release. The former pitcher, whose career spanned parts of 13 seasons, was ordered to surrender to authorities on April 19.

Prosecutors said that on Feb. 9, 2018, Loiaza drove a silver Mercedes- Benz SUV to the Imperial Beach townhouse, then moved the drugs from the SUV into a Nissan minivan parked in the home's garage. He then left the home in the SUV.

Sheriff's deputies who were surveilling the SUV pulled Loaiza over shortly afterward, and a police canine detected the prior presence of narcotics in the rear of the Mercedes, prosecutors said. The complaint did not elaborate on what initially led police to tail the vehicle.

A search warrant was served at the townhouse, where investigators searched the minivan and found 20 packages under the van's rear floor panels, according to court papers, which stated that the home was otherwise devoid of furniture and personal belongings.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Lawrence Casper had sought a 67-month sentence for Loaiza, referring to the townhome as a "stash house" and alleging that Loaiza had a greater involvement in a larger criminal enterprise than he was representing.

"The government believes that this was not his only involvement in narcotics trafficking," Casper said, citing Loaiza's bank record activity, which the prosecutor said indicated the movement of narcotics proceeds.

Casper said that Loaiza claimed he was broke, but actually had a net worth of somewhere between $20 and $40 million. The prosecutor estimated that the former player made around $45 million during his baseball career.

However, Loaiza told the court that he had four vehicles in his name at present, and no residential properties.

Defense attorney Janice M. Deaton sought a sentence between 18 and 24 months, citing recent health concerns related to diabetes and Loaiza's lack of a prior criminal record. A defense request to have Loaiza housed in a prison in the country's southwest region, to allow for easier visitation by his family members, was granted by Sammartino.

Loaiza was named an All Star in 2003 and 2004, and played for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago White Sox, Pittsburgh Pirates, Texas Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees, Washington Nationals and Oakland A's.

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