Leandro Joel Caminero, 27, was caught at Kennedy Airport last April after arriving from the Dominican Republic with 50 pellets of heroin in his belly.
A down-on-his luck ex-Tampa Bay Rays minor league baseball player was sentenced Tuesday to a year plus one day in prison Tuesday for trying to smuggle heroin into the United States.
Leandro Joel Caminero, 27, was caught at Kennedy Airport last April after arriving on a JetBlue flight from the Dominican Republic with 50 pellets of heroin in his belly.
Federal defender Kannan Sundaram said Caminero had signed his first major league contract with the Rays at age 16 and had been supporting his mother and other family members back home while pursuing his professional career.
The outfielder last played for the Rays’ farm team in 2012. Since then, he bounced around playing pro ball in the Dominican Republic, Taiwan and Mexico and hoped for a tryout with a team in Japan, according to Sundaram.
But Caminero suffered a shoulder injury and money troubles followed, leading him in what his lawyer called a “moment of weakness” to agree to swallow what he claims he thought were pellets of cocaine for a drug dealer. Caminero expected to receive $5,000 for transporting the drugs, court papers state.
“I supported my family financial in a legal way doing what I know, playing baseball,” he told Judge Allyne Ross in Brooklyn Federal Court.
“I not only failed myself, but each and every one of my family,” he said, “each and every one who trusted me.”
64 photos view gallery Athletes in trouble with the law
Caminero hopes to resume playing baseball when he is released from prison, but it must be outside the U.S. because he will be deported and is banned from returning as a convicted felon.
“In baseball, he’s not that young and in the prime of his career,” Sundaram said.
The government had been seeking at least two years in prison as a deterrent to drug couriers.