Police: Man negotiated $30,000 bounty in botched hit that hurt Ortiz
The man accused of conspiring to have his cousin killed, in a shooting that left former Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz badly injured, negotiated a $30,000 bounty with a group of hit men, Dominican police said.
Victor Hugo Gomez Vasquez, the alleged mastermind, is accused of paying suspect Alberto Miguel Rodriguez Mota $10,000 before the shooting, National Police spokesman Frank Felix Duran said during a Sunday news conference.
Dominican court documents allege Rodriguez Mota paid $7,800 to the would-be assassins.
National Police announced his arrest last week. Rodriguez Mota was the plot’s financier, police said, and Dominican marines apprehended him in Samaná on the northeastern coast, attempting to flee to Puerto Rico.
Sixto David Fernandez, who police say was the target of the botched hit, was sitting next to Ortiz at the Dial Bar and Lounge in Santo Domingo last month when a gunman opened fire, hitting Ortiz and one of the ballplayer’s friends, Duran said.
Gomez Vasquez has denied orchestrating an attack on his cousin, the police spokesman said. In a video widely reported to be from his lawyer, Gomez Vasquez says he has been falsely accused and had no reason to target his cousin.
“I fear for my life. I have my children and my family who depend on me and I would never hurt anyone,” he says on the video.
Gomez Vasquez ordered the killing, police say, because he suspects Fernandez turned him in to Dominican investigators in 2011.
The 43-year-old has served time in the Dominican Republic for drug offenses, allegedly has ties to Mexico’s Gulf Cartel and is wanted by the US Drug Enforcement Administration, prosecutor Jean Alain Rodríguez Sánchez said.
He allegedly arranged the hit from the United States, Sánchez said. Police have previously said Gomez Vasquez sent Rodriguez Mota to Dial to wait for Fernandez.
Gomez Vasquez was a target in a US federal drug probe called “Operation Wrecking Ball” in March, according to Director Gen. Ney Aldrin Bautista Almonte of the National Police.
The day before Gomez Vasquez’s arrest in the Dominican capital last week, the US Marshals Service issued a news release citing the investigation and said Gomez Vasquez should be considered armed and dangerous.
A US indictment unsealed in March says Gomez Vasquez is wanted on two counts of drug possession, one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and heroin, and one count of conspiracy to conduct financial transactions with money earned unlawfully.
Fourteen people have been arrested in the Dominican dragnet, Duran said. One suspect remains at large.
The June 9 shooting was initially described as a murder-for-hire plot targeting Ortiz, even as one suspect told local media Ortiz was not his target. Later, prosecutors changed their story.
The twist left many in the baseball-crazed Caribbean nation of 11 million people skeptical of the official government version.
While police said the men were dressed similarly, they have different appearances. Ortiz is 6 feet, 3 inches tall and 250 pounds and one of the most recognizable athletes in the US and the Dominican Republic. Fernandez is smaller and thinner, with a lighter complexion.
Ortiz and Fernandez were on Dial’s crowded bar patio when a gunman approached and opened fire with a Browning Hi-Power 9mm handgun, hitting Ortiz in the lower back.
The bullet perforated Ortiz’s intestines and internal organs before hitting his friend, TV talk show host Jhoel Lopez, in the leg.
The accused gunman, Rolfi Ferreira Cruz, ran, police say. His alleged getaway driver, Eddy Vladimir Feliz Garcia, couldn’t escape because his motorcycle stalled, and a crowd pummeled him before turning him over to authorities, according to police.
On June 22, the ex-slugger’s wife, Tiffany Ortiz, said her husband was out of intensive care at Massachusetts General Hospital and in good condition.
CNN’s Ray Sanchez and Patrick Oppmann contributed to this report.