Ex-Chicago White Sox Executive Gets 2 Years For Kickback Scheme
By: Christopher A. Iacono
A former Chicago White Sox scouting executive was sentenced to two years in prison for his role in a kickback scheme that resulted in more than $400,000 from inflated signing bonuses for Latin American baseball prospects.
David Wilder served as the White Sox farm system director from late 2003 to 2006, and as the team’s senior director of player personnel until May 2008. The White Sox had a Latin American scouting program to identify and recruit prospective players in countries such as Brazil, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Panama and Venezuela, according to court documents.
The Sox either paid a signing bonus — a one-time, upfront payment made to a player to induce him to sign a contract — or purchased the contract rights of a player who was already affiliated with a Mexican baseball team by paying that team or its representative an amount necessary to induce the team to release the player to the White Sox. From 2004 to 2008, Wilder and two former White Sox Latin American scouts allegedly misrepresented to the White Sox the amount of money necessary to sign certain players and omitted information about the payments. As a result, the Sox paid artificially inflated signing bonuses to players and paid more money than necessary to purchase the contracts of or rights to players from other teams.
Wilder received the sentence recommended by prosecutors, who asked for leniency because of his substantial cooperation with investigators to help build cases against the two scouts who also participated in the four-year kickback scheme involving at least 23 Sox players.
Wilder’s attorney argued for a sentence of six months house arrest, pointing to his cooperation and good works in the community. Counsel claimed that Wilder had already been punished, primarily through the loss of a promising career. Wilder is now allegedly bankrupt after making $200,000 a year with the White Sox. Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker claimed in a letter to the court that Wilder had been on a career path to become a general manager in the league. Wilder was also forced to sell off his three World Series rings to help support his 15-year-old daughter.
The Court was not persuaded, noting the lengthy four-year duration of the scheme and the considerable amount of money involved. Wilder was ordered to report to prison by Oct. 31. U.S. District Judge Charles R. Norgle did not impose a fine, citing Wilder’s financial troubles, but did order the defendant to pay $440,781 in restitution to the White Sox.
The two former White Sox Latin American scouts have also pled guilty in connection with the scheme. Jorge L. Oquendo Rivera was sentenced in June to one year and one day in prison after pleading guilty to one count of mail fraud. Victor Mateo is slated to be sentenced Sept. 18, and authorities have recommended 10 months in prison, according to court records.
The case is USA v. Wilder et al., case number 1:10-cr-00948, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.