A former professional baseball player scouting executive for the Chicago White Sox and two former scouts for the team in Latin America were indicted Wednesday on federal fraud charges for allegedly accepting kickbacks totaling approximately $400,000 from signing bonuses and contract buyouts paid to secure 23 prospective players between 2004 through 2008. A seven-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury alleges that the White Sox baseball team was defrauded of money, as well as the honest services of the defendants, who allegedly concealed the kickbacks from the team and its more senior officials.
Charged with seven counts of mail fraud were David S. Wilder, the White Sox former farm system director and Jorge L. Oquendo Rivera, the former White Sox Latin American scout. Victor Mateo, a White Sox scout in the Dominican Republic was charged with three counts of mail fraud. The indictment also seeks forfeiture of unspecified illegal proceeds from the alleged fraud scheme.
“These defendants allegedly defrauded their employer and enriched themselves by taking advantage of vulnerable ballplayers, who were anxious to pursue their dreams of stardom in the major leagues” said Robert D. Grant, Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
According to the indictment, the White Sox maintained a Latin American scouting program to identify and recruit prospective players in such countries as Brazil, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Panama, and Venezuela, and to sign them to written contracts. The Sox either paid a signing bonus, a one-time, up-front payment made to new players to induce them to sign a contract.
As part of the scheme, Oquendo and Mateo allegedly scouted for and identified prospective Sox players in Latin America from whom they could obtain a portion of the players’ signing bonuses. They also allegedly engaged in discussions with these players or their representatives about the amount of signing bonuses, as well as the amount the players were willing or expected to pay in kickbacks to them and Wilder. Oquendo allegedly engaged in these same practices in his negotiations with Mexican teams and their representatives.