Former MLB pitcher Esteban Loaiza pleads guilty to federal drug charge

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A former Major League Baseball player facing federal drug charges following his arrest in San Diego earlier this year changed his plea in the case.

Esteban Loaiza, 46, pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine with intent to distribute during a hearing in a San Diego federal courtroom Friday, according to his attorney.

The former athlete 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.

When asked whether this would lead to a possible deportation, Loaiza's attorney could not comment.

The ex-big league pitcher 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.

RELATED: Ex-MLB pitcher arrested in San Diego, accused of cocaine possession

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.

ABC7 in Chicago reported Loaiza posted bail in May after initially having problems coming up with the money required for the bond.

He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison and a $10 million fine.

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.

RELATED: Ex-MLB pitcher Esteban Loaiza now faces federal drug charge

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.

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