Ex-MLB players implicated in major drug trafficking organization, Dominican officials say

Octavio Dotel and Luis Castillo (Getty Images)

The Dominican attorney general implicated a former Major League Baseball all-star and a journeyman pitcher on Wednesday in a drug trafficking and ring that authorities say ran narcotics from South America into the United States and Europe.

Octavio Dotel, 45, who pitched for 13 teams in his career and won a World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals, is in custody, officials say; former second baseman Luis Castillo remains at home in Plantation, Florida, “bewildered” by the allegations against him, his lawyer says.

It is not clear whether Dotel, who was arrested in the Dominican Republic on Monday, has retained an attorney.

Attorney General Jean Alain Rodriguez’s office confirmed that it is targeting the Luis Castillo who played for the New York Mets and Florida Marlins, not the current Cincinnati Reds pitcher.

The men are accused of being part of a drug ring allegedly run by Cesar Peralta, according to Rodriguez, who described Peralta’s operation “as one of the most important drug trafficking structures in the Caribbean.”

The former ballplayers are accused of helping launder profits from the drug smuggling operation, Rodriguez’s office told CNN, though the exact charges being leveled against the men isn’t clear.

Castillo, 43, responded to the news with “shock and surprise,” attorney Darren Heitner said. The lawyer was at a loss for how to respond to the allegations because, he claims, Rodriguez’s office hung up on him when he called and declined to respond to his questions via email or Twitter.

“I simply lack any information whatsoever, and my client is bewildered by all of this as well,” he told CNN, adding that Castillo hasn’t been to the Dominican Republic since last year.

When he spoke to Castillo, he “denied he’s been involved with any drug trafficking,” Heitner said.

In a Tuesday news release, Rodriguez said authorities were looking for Peralta and were arresting or seeking to arrest 18 others, including the former baseball players. The FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration are cooperating in the probe, he said, and the United States wants three of Peralta’s lieutenants extradited.

Prosecutors say that over 700 prosecutors and investigators from many agencies were involved in taking down the ring.

The attorney general says Peralta, who is known as “Cesar the Abuser,” has been involved in drug trade for more than two decades, ascending the ranks as other drug kingpins were arrested or killed.

“To enter and launder the illicit money obtained from drug trafficking, Cesar the Abuser also created a complicated corporate framework that disguised the origin of his fortune, using numerous individuals in his family and social circle to hide his assets, including two sports figures from the Dominican Republic,” he said in the statement.

On Monday, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control listed members of Peralta’s Santo Domingo-based organization as traffickers under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, it said in a statement.

“Cesar Emilio Peralta and his criminal organization have used violence and corruption in the Dominican Republic to traffic tons of cocaine and opioids into the United States and Europe,” said Sigal Mandelker, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

Treasury also designated six of Peralta’s businesses, some of them nightclubs, as instrumental in trafficking women from Colombia and Venezuela and in laundering money, its statement said.

Dotel spent 15 years in the MLB. In addition to his 2011 World Series title, he was on the 2013 Dominican team that won the World Baseball Classic.

A three-time Gold Glove second baseman, Castillo also played 15 years in the pros, winning a World Series title with the Florida Marlins before finishing his career with the Minnesota Twins and New York Mets.

Both men are married with children.

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