CHICAGO (CBS) – Former White Sox executive David Wilder pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court Friday, on charges of skimming thousands of dollars in kickbacks to get top players.
“I understand what I have done,” Wilder said in court.
Wilder was indicted on seven counts of mail fraud in November. He had been the White Sox farm system director from 2003 to 2006, and the senior director of player personnel until 2008. Former White Sox Latin American scout Jorge L. Oquendo Rivera was also charged with seven counts of mail fraud, while former Dominican Republic scout Victor Mateo was charged with three counts.
Federal prosecutors allege that the men overstated the amount of money the White Sox would need to sign certain players. They allegedly took a cut from the fraudulently inflated sums and hid those transactions from the team. The indictment does not say which specific players were signed, nor how much Wilder and the scouts took as the kickbacks were.
Wilder was the supervisor for the scouts in Latin America, and approved payments to sign new players. Federal prosecutors say Oquendo and Mateo scouted out players for Wilder, and discussed signing bonuses and the amount the players would pay in kickbacks to them and Wilder.
Wilder was authorized to approve signing amounts of $100,000 or less, but had to get the approval of the White Sox general manager for amounts greater than $100,000. Some of the contracts involved in the fraud scheme were worth more than $100,000, and Wilder allegedly deceived White Sox management so he could secure kickbacks, prosecutors said.
The indictment says the checks from which the defendants took kickbacks were worth $30,000 to $525,000.
Wilder, 50, of San Francisco, and Oquendo, 49, of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, are due in U.S. District Court in Chicago for an arraignment at an unspecified date. A warrant has been issued for the arrest of Mateo, 39, of Arroyo Hondo, Dominican Republic, prosecutors said.
If convicted, each wire fraud count could result in 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Federal prosecutors are also demanding that the defendants return the money they took fraudulently.