Esteban Loaiza drug case: Ex-Major League Baseball pitcher sentenced, expected to be deported

Posted at 12:23 PM, Mar 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-08 20:37:07-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Former Major League Baseball pitcher Esteban Loaiza was given a prison sentence Friday after pleading guilty in a federal drug case.

Loaiza, 47, was ordered to serve three years in a federal prison. He is expected to be deported to his native Mexico after serving his prison term, 10News learned. Authorities said Loaiza will be on five years probation if he is allowed to re-enter the U.S.

Loaiza was not immediately taken into custody. He will have to turn himself into authorities on April 19.

In court Friday, Loaiza apologized to his family and fans for his actions.

"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."

The ex-big leaguer pleaded guilty in August 2018 to possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. He admitted to taking possession of a silver Mercedes-Benz SUV he knew contained about 20 kilograms of cocaine and driving it to a townhome he owned in Imperial Beach. From there, he planned to distribute the narcotics to another person, according to the Southern District of California U.S. Attorney.

The two-time All-Star was arrested on drug charges during a Feb. 9 traffic stop in Imperial Beach. According to authorities, Loaiza had a sophisticated compartment to hide contraband in his vehicle.

During a search of his rented Imperial Beach home, investigators found 20 packages of white powder believed to be cocaine and weighing a total of 44 pounds hidden inside a minivan parked in the garage.

He was initially charged with possessing drugs for sale, transporting drugs and having a hidden compartment in his vehicle.

However, Loaiza’s case was transferred from state to federal court in March. Loaiza pleaded not guilty to charges of cocaine possession with intent to distribute. He changed his plea several months later.

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 million 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, who last pitched in the majors in 2008, made over $40 million in his 14-year career. He played for eight teams, with his best season coming in 2003 as a member of the Chicago White Sox when he finished second in the American League Cy Young Award voting.

His 126 career wins is the second most for a Mexican-born pitcher, behind Fernando Valenzuela.

Loaiza, a Tijuana native, attended Mar Vista High School in Imperial Beach before signing a professional contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1991.

He was married to famed singer Jenni Rivera, who died in a 2012 plane crash.

Jason Kurosu of City News Service contributed to this report