So two months later, Perez jumped to Sweetwater, just north of Florida International University's main campus. He became the town's sports coordinator, with a salary of $24,960. After a little more than a year, he became the parks and recreation director, earning $31,000 annually. And Perez set to turning the modest hamlet into his own personal baseball fiefdom.

He moved Fastball Academy to Sweetwater's Ronselli Park. According to a later probe of Perez's reign as sports czar, he posted signs stating his department was no longer accepting personal checks for the town's summer baseball program — just cash and money orders. He stood by the batting cages on the weekends, charging kids $25 to $50 to take swings. He even required them to wear Fastball Academy T-shirts.

He sold a "sponsorship" to the local Subway for $200 but never advertised the sandwich shop at Ronselli Park, as he told the owner he would, an investigator found. He collected $500 from a bus driver in exchange for steady gigs shuttling Sweetwater's baseball players around town.

Eighteen-year-old Cubs prospect Yasiel Balaguer is the target of a potentially explosive lawsuit.
C.M. Guerrero / The Miami Herald
Eighteen-year-old Cubs prospect Yasiel Balaguer is the target of a potentially explosive lawsuit.
Carlos Perez claims to have nothing to do with his Cuban baseball clients' defections.
Via Facebook
Carlos Perez claims to have nothing to do with his Cuban baseball clients' defections.

The final straw: "He conducted a nightclub out of the park," Sweetwater Mayor Manuel Maroño recalls with a hint of awe. "They had DJs, and they were charging admission at the entrance. Allegedly, they had liquor."

Upon that discovery, the mayor fired Perez in January 2008. Then Sweetwater police began investigating the former parks and recreation director's reign. The mayor's chief of staff, Francisco Lago, began receiving phone messages that included heavy breathing. The caller demanded the investigation be called off. It was Perez, according to a police report, who intoned, "I will destroy your life."

On April 15, a Sweetwater police officer arrested Perez outside his peach-painted home on SW 102nd Avenue. He was charged with grand theft, fraud, extortion, corruption by threats to a public servant, and obstruction of justice by tampering. According to Sweetwater Det. Reny Garcia, Perez had fleeced the town out of nearly $10,000 through myriad schemes.

Once at the police station, according to Garcia's report, Perez suddenly sputtered that he was having a hard time breathing. A paramedic treated him and found nothing wrong.

Detective Garcia and Mayor Maroño say Perez eventually reached a plea deal with prosecutors. The mayor recalls he paid restitution. It's impossible to verify those details because Perez's criminal record isn't available online or at the courthouse, though it is described in Sweetwater records. Perez denies any guilt, though he declines to speak about the specifics of the case: "They accused me of many things and proved nothing."

Perez tells New Times he filed a lawsuit against Sweetwater for defamation stemming from the arrest. He sent a March 2011 letter threatening litigation, but according to a federal and local search, he has not yet filed that suit. "He tells people that he sued us and he won $8 million," Maroño says. "That's how he won the house and the cars that he's driving. It's not true."

Perez brags that he broke into the business of representing ballplayers through Wasserman Media Group, a high-profile sports agency with clients including Oakland Athletics designated hitter Hideki Matsui, Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley, and defector Yoenis Céspedes. Though until recently, Perez's corporate website claimed he had been Wasserman's director of baseball operations, Shelley Lewis, the agency's senior manager of publicity, says, "Carlos never worked for us." Andy Mota, Wasserman's Miami-based agent, clarifies that Perez "was kind of my bird dog."

In July 2010, Perez struck out on his own, incorporating Miami Sports Consulting. He named as president his disgraced cousin Collazo.

"He told me he was dedicating his practice to Cuban kids," Mota says. "I told him he had his work cut out for him. When I deal with professional baseball players, all I have to worry about is their contract. But with Cuban kids, you have to be their everything. But I guess you can hit the jackpot every now and then."

In January 2011, the next great Cuban ballplayer wooed suitors at an empty baseball diamond in Overtown. Yasiel Balaguer wore a gray Lycra Nike shirt showing off his pecs and thickly muscular arms and a Cuba National League hat pulled low over his flat boxer's face.

He'd been 18 years old for all of three weeks and in the United States for two months.

But as a steady stream of reporters and major-league scouts arrived to watch him take swings and catch flies, he smiled wryly and doled out sound bites like a veteran. "I realized that once I made it to the national team, I'd still be a nobody," Balaguer, who grew up outside Havana, said in tumbling Cuban Spanish. "I decided that I should come to the best league in the world to help my family."

His agent, Carlos Perez, greeted a news crew at the baseball diamond and then held court in his gaudy office. He declared that "interest in Yasiel is growing every day."

Perez says he first heard of Balaguer's defection when he received a phone call from a panicked Miami relative of the player in November 2010. Balaguer and slugging third baseman Adonis García had just walked away from their Cuban squad in Mexico, the caller said. There they had been detained by local authorities.

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3 comments
cubaboy
cubaboy

Carlos Perez is the typical con artist........I have dealt with him in miami he is all promises and he never comes thru.......there is a reason why he is not a licensed agent it's because he is a thief......Adonis Garcia,Onelkis Garcia, and Yasiel Balaguer all had to go to other agents to get signed because Perez doesn't know what he is doing......He is a typical flim flam man!!!! 

Msternbaum
Msternbaum

Interesting article...but it would have been nice to give credit to Antonio Prohias, the Cuban-born cartoonist who created Spy vs Spy, the obvious inspiration for your cover illustration. Prohias political satire in the Cuban press forced him to escape to New York to avoid arrest by Castro. Readers of a certain age will remember his work for many years in MAD magazine.

<< Work at home, $60/h, link
<< Work at home, $60/h, link

Without self knowledge, without understanding the working and functions of his machine, man cannot be free, he cannot govern himself and he will always remain a slave.

 
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