Ex-MLB pitcher Esteban Loaiza arrested after 20 kilograms of powder found at rental home
SAN DIEGO -- Former All-Star pitcher Esteban Loaiza, who earned more than $43 million over 14 seasons, is accused of drug dealing involving 44 pounds (20 kilograms) of suspected cocaine.
Loaiza, 46, is scheduled to be arraigned in court in Chula Vista, California, on Wednesday.
He was arrested Friday on suspicion of drug smuggling after San Diego County sheriff's officers who pulled him over for a traffic violation found a "sophisticated" compartment used to hide contraband in his vehicle. Later they obtained a search warrant for the home he rented in the beach community of Imperial Beach, where officials say packages were found containing a white powder believed to be cocaine.
Loaiza played for numerous teams between 1995 and 2008, included stints with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the New York Yankees, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chicago White Sox. He had a 21-9 record with the Chicago White Sox in 2003 and started in the All-Star Game that year.
Investigators have said the arrest was part of an on-going narcotics probe but have given few other details about how a successful baseball star became linked to a case involving the transport and sale of drugs with an estimated value of $500,000, according to the San Diego Sheriff's Department.
It was not immediately known if Loaiza had hired a lawyer, and he could not be reached to comment. He was being held for lack of $200,000 bail pending Wednesday's court appearance.
Loaiza's agent, John Boggs, told the San Francisco Chronicle that he had no information about the arrest and that he has not spoken to Loaiza recently. He said that Loaiza had called his office early last week but Boggs was unavailable at the time.
"I am shocked and saddened by the news and had no indication he would ever be in this type of situation," Boggs said in a text to the newspaper. "I don't know how he would get himself involved in this, so it's difficult to even comment on it."
Officers stopped Loaiza for a minor traffic infraction Friday after he left the home he started renting recently in the Pacific Coast community of Imperial Beach, along the U.S.-Mexico border. Authorities had the vehicle under surveillance on suspicion it was used for smuggling drugs.
When they searched the vehicle, they found a sophisticated compartment used to conceal contraband, authorities said. That led them to obtain a search warrant for Loaiza's rental home, where they found the packages of drugs, according to investigators.
The packages containing a white powder are still being tested but are believed to be cocaine, said San Diego Sheriff's Lt. Jason Vickery.
Loaiza was born in Tijuana, Mexico, and was married for two years to the late Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera. She filed for divorce shortly before she died in a plane crash in 2012.
The 43-year-old Rivera was known as the "Diva de la Banda" and died as her career was peaking. She was perhaps the most successful female singer in grupero, a male-dominated Mexico regional style, sold more than 15 million records, and moved into acting and reality television.
Loaiza sued the aircraft's owners in 2014 for wrongful death, but Rivera's relatives accused him of trying to profit from her death. He denied the accusations and later retracted his lawsuit. He made just over $43.7 million in his major league career.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.