Former Major League Baseball pitcher Esteban Loaiza has been transferred to federal custody and will now face federal charges in the drug case against him.
He was arraigned on drug charges in Superior Court on Feb. 14.
Loaiza made his initial appearance in federal court late Wednesday afternoon. He’s now facing federal charges of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.
Federal prosecutors would not say why they took over the case. Loaiza’s attorney also did not make any comments to the news media.
Loaiza was arrested on Feb. 9 when law enforcement officers were conducting surveillance of his silver Mercedes SUV. After stopping the car, deputies observed what they’re calling an “aftermarket compartment” in the rear of the Mercedes. The federal complaint says it’s the type of “commonly used to smuggle drugs and drug proceeds.”
Later officers obtained a search warrant for an Imperial Beach home where Loaiza was seen driving from earlier. They say a grey Nissan minivan was parked in the garage of the home. In the rear cargo area of the minivan, officers observed several baseball bags. Underneath the base and the rear floor panels, officers found 20 packages containing 20 kilograms, or 44 pounds, of cocaine, according to the complaint.
The case has gotten heavy publicity from Mexican news media, in part, because Loaiza was married to Mexican music superstar Jenny Rivera, who was killed in a 2012 plane crash.
Currently, Loaiza is not eligible for bail, which could be set at a detention hearing on March 12, according to Asst. U.S. Attorney Jarad Hodes.
A preliminary hearing for Loaiza is scheduled for March 20.