Former MLB All-Star pitcher Esteban Loaiza surrendered himself to authorities at a downtown San Diego federal courthouse Friday to begin a three-year sentence for felony drug possession.
The 47-year-old athlete was sentenced on March 8 after pleading guilty to one felony count of possession of cocaine with intent of distribution in San Diego County.
After his sentencing, a judge allowed Loaiza to remain free on bond but he was ordered to report back to authorities on April 19.
On Friday, Loaiza briskly walked past camera crews and through the glass doors of the U.S. District Court Southern District of California to turn himself in.
His sentence of three years in prison and five years on probation was far less than the minimum prison sentence of 10 years he faced but, ahead of the sentencing, his lawyer was confident his penalty would be reduced.
Once released from prison, however, Loaiza will be deported to his home country of Mexico, according to U.S. District Court Judge Janis L. Sammartino.
The baseball star was arrested on Feb. 9, 2018, after San Diego County sheriff's deputies found a "sophisticated," rear cargo compartment used to hide contraband in his minivan. The minivan was parked in the garage of the ballplayer's home; on top of the vehicle were baseball bags bearing Loaiza's name.
Later, authorities obtained a search warrant for the home he rented in Imperial Beach, an oceanfront city south of San Diego, where officials said packages containing a white powder believed to be cocaine were found.
According to details in the government’s sentencing memorandum, Loaiza’s rented townhouse was described as a “stash house” used to distribute the drugs. The home didn’t contain furniture or personal belongings.
Loaiza was originally charged with possession of more than 20 kilograms (about 44 pounds) along with two counts of transporting and possessing narcotics with the intent to sell — all felonies.
In his plea agreement, the athlete admitted to driving a Mercedes-Benz SUV that he knew contained cocaine. He transported the drugs to his home in Imperial Beach and transferred the drugs to another car at the property, and intended to transport the cocaine to another person.
U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer, of the Southern District of California in San Diego, said this case marks Loaiza’s fall from grace.
“As a professional athlete, Esteban Loaiza earned tens of millions of dollars and the admiration of baseball fans across the U.S. and Mexico,” Brewer said in a press release. “And yet he sacrificed his reputation - and now his freedom - to become a cocaine trafficker. No one is above the law, and that includes Major League All-Star pitchers.”
Born in Tijuana, Mexico, Loaiza attended Mar Vista High School in Imperial Beach. After his 1995 debut in the major leagues, he went on to pitch for the Pirates, Yankees, Oakland A's, Dodgers, White Sox and others.
Loaiza was also the husband of Jenni Rivera, the Mexican-American pop star who died along with six others in a 2012 plane crash. The 43-year-old superstar filed for divorce from Loaiza two months before the crash.