Will the Real Fausto Carmona Please Stand Up? - Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal
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Will the Real Fausto Carmona Please Stand Up?

Will the Real Fausto Carmona Please Stand Up?

Fausto Carmona has been a steady fixture in the Indians rotation since his 2007 breakout season, when he racked up a career high nineteen wins and finished fourth in the Cy Young voting.  With a combination of toughness and a devastating power-sinker, it appeared that Carmona was on his way to remaining a face of the Indians franchise for many years to come.  However, as of January 19, the world of Fausto Carmona—rather, Roberto Hernandez Heredia—was turned on its head.

The plan seemed simple. Carmona was to go to the American consulate in Santo Domingo, renew his visa, and board a plane for Arizona to start Spring training.  But things did not go according to plan when the Dominican Republic National Police discovered Carmona had not only fabricated his name, but his age as well.  Twenty-eight year-old Fausto Carmona was actually 31-year old Roberto Hernandez Heredia.  Dominican authorities arrested Heredia for using a false identity in an attempt to obtain a United States visa, accusations that raise numerous legal problems for Heredia within both the Dominican Republic and the United States.  Heredia has been stripped of his passport, and whether or not he will be permitted to travel outside the Dominican Republic is in doubt.  But even if Heredia is able to resolve this issue and obtain his correct documents, questions remain.  Will he even be allowed back into the United States?  What will become of his MLB career?

According to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), the use of fraudulent documents when entering the United States may bar the individual from subsequently reentering the country.  Even if allowed back into the U.S., the Indians could attempt to void his contract.  The Indians have already placed Carmona/Heredia on Major League Baseball’s restricted list.  While on the restricted list, Heredia is ineligible to receive any payments from the Indians. If Carmona/Heredia’s legal status is eventually resolved in his favor, the Indians would only have to pay a prorated portion of his contract for the remainder of the year.

This is not only a pressing issue for the Indians, but for Major League Baseball.  Just five months ago, the Miami Marlins pitcher formerly known as Leo Nunez returned to the Dominican Republic under similar circumstances and currently remains there.  Indians manager Manny Acta believes that the system has been “flawed…for a long time,” but that Major League Baseball is “doing a good job right now of trying to fix the problem.”  But until Major League Baseball comes up with a plan to disincentivize and protect against foreign players using false identities to get their shot in the big leagues, it will continue to haunt teams and attract international governmental attention.

Chris Gregorio

Chris Gregorio works in the field of immigration law. Chris grew up on Long Island and graduated from Boston College in 2010. Chris enjoys travelling and sports.