DOMINICAN REPUBLIC — The alleged mastermind and the financier of the shooting of former baseball star David Ortiz were arrested in the Dominican Republic on Friday, police said.
The arrest of Victor Hugo Gomez, who allegedly planned the botched hit, was announced first, with scant detail, via the official Twitter account of the Dominican National Police. The post said additional information would be released later Friday.
Later, police again took to social media to announce the capture of Alberto Rodriguez Mota, who allegedly financed the plot, in Samaná, on the northeastern coast. He was arrested by Dominican marines at sea trying to flee to Puerto Rico.
Gomez is accused of ordering a hit on a man sitting with Ortiz at an outdoor bar one night earlier this month.
The shooting was initially described as a murder-for-hire plot against one of the Dominican Republic’s best-known personalities, even as one suspect told local media that Ortiz was not his target.
But prosecutors changed their story. They said the intended target was Sixto David Fernandez, who was at a table with the former Boston Red Sox slugger. Fernandez and Gomez are cousins.
The twist in the investigation left many Dominicans 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 a strapping 6 feet, 3 inches tall and 250 pounds. He’s one of the most recognizable athletes in the US and the Dominican Republic. Fernandez is smaller and thinner, with a lighter complexion.
Authorities said they believe Gomez ordered the killing because he suspected Fernandez turned him in to Dominican investigators back in 2011.
Suspect allegedly tied to Mexico’s Gulf Cartel, prosecutor says
Prosecutor Jean Alain Rodríguez Sánchez said Gomez, who has alleged ties to Mexico’s Gulf Cartel, is wanted by the US Drug Enforcement Agency. He allegedly arranged the hit from the United States, according to Sánchez.
Gomez had spent time in a Dominican prison on drug offenses, prosecutors said.
The suspect was also a target of a US Attorney’s Office’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation called “Operation Wrecking Ball” as recently as March, according to Maj. Gen. Ney Aldrin Bautista Almonte, director of the Dominican Republic National Police.
Twelve suspects arrested for shooting; at least one on loose
A US indictment unsealed in March lists a Victor Hugo Gomez as a defendant, 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.
A total of 13 suspects are now in custody in connection with Ortiz’s shooting; at least one other remains on the loose.
Dominican court documents identified Rodriguez Mota as the person accused of putting up the money for the hit.
But it’s unclear why he would have footed the $7,800 to the would-be assassins, as police allege. Gomez, Rodriguez Mota and two other suspects in the plot had previously crossed paths in jail, prosecutors said.
The night of the shooting, Gomez allegedly sent Rodriguez Mota to the nightclub to wait for Fernandez, police said.
When Fernandez arrived, Rodriguez Mota took a photo of him seated at a table moments before Ortiz arrived, according to police.
Rodriguez Mota texted the photo to another suspect in a Dominican prison, who is accused of helping plan the shooting from behind bars. Still another suspect in the long web of alleged co-conspirators met with Rodriguez Mota a week earlier to discuss the plan.
‘Big Papi’ Ortiz is recovering in good condition, his wife says
Ortiz was on a crowded bar patio in Santo Domingo the night of June 9 when a gunman walked up, pulled out a Browning Hi-Power 9mm and shot him once in the lower back.
The bullet passed through Ortiz, perforating his intestines and internal organs and hit his friend, TV talk show host Jhoel Lopez, in the leg.
The accused gunman, Rolfi Ferreira Cruz, fled the scene on foot. His alleged getaway driver, Eddy Vladimir Feliz Garcia, stalled out his motorcycle as he attempted to flee. An enraged crowd pummeled him before turning him over to police.
Ortiz is recovering in Boston. He is out of intensive care at Massachusetts General Hospital and in good condition, his wife, Tiffany Ortiz, said in a statement issued by the Red Sox last week.