A former MLB All-Star’s friend dropped his name during a drug bust and that led to reports he was “being eyed” in connection with an ongoing state and federal investigation, the Boston Globe reports.
ABC investigative journalist Michele McPhee tweeted on Friday that Hanley Ramirez, 34, was being investigated as part of a takedown of a widespread fentanyl trafficking ring in Massachusetts. But the Globe reports Ramirez is not believed to have any role in the ring and is not being investigated. He was designated for assignment and then released by the Red Sox in a surprise move three weeks ago and has not signed with another team, despite many believing he would be picked up by another club.
The suspect’s attorney told the Globe that Ramirez grew up with his client in the Dominican Republic and mentioned his name “to get the cops off his back, which didn’t work.” Police have said they found several hundred grams of fentanyl in the man’s car and he was arrested on state charges. Several other arrests have been made recently in the Lawrence, Massachusetts, area as part of the operation to stop the opioid trade in the region.
Ramirez’s agent, Adam Katz, told Fox Sportsreporter Ken Rosenthal, “Hanley has no knowledge of any of the allegations contained in this media report and he is not aware of any investigation.” The Red Sox have denied any knowledge of an investigation and said his release earlier this month was unrelated and was for “baseball reasons.”
McPhee, who is a longtime Boston crime reporter and was among the first to break the news that Aaron Hernandez was the target of a murder warrant, tweeted the report about Ramirez Friday evening:
McPhee expanded on her report during a radio interview on the “Matty & Nick” show on WAAF 107.3. You can listen to that interview here.
“As we all know, there has been a lot of speculation swirling around Hanley Ramirez and why he really got dropped from the lineup. I started to get some calls that perhaps Hanley has some issues with the law. Now, I can’t go too far, but what I will say is the Red Sox and a Red Sox spokesperson told me that his removal from the lineup had nothing to do whatsoever with what is being called an ongoing investigation into a very large fentanyl distribution case centered in Lawrence, Massachusetts,” McPhee said during the radio interview. “He hasn’t been charged with a crime, I want to make that abundantly clear. He may be named in some court records pertaining to a search warrant involving a car stop where a man who was later arrested on drug trafficking charges Facetimed the Red Sox infielder during the car stop that later led to a seizure of a significant amount of drugs.”
McPhee said she doesn’t know why the suspect was able to Facetime with Ramirez, but said that led to him being eyed by investigators as part of the “big, massive, sweeping case into fentanyl distribution that’s centered largely in the city of Lawrence.”
McPhee also gave an interview on the SportsHub and said, “During that car stop, the suspect claimed that one of the items found in the vehicle belonged to Hanley Ramirez and then FaceTimed [Ramirez] in front of police. And that car stop coordinated with the timing of his release from the Red Sox.” McPhee said the suspect in that case was found with “435 grams of fentanyl and crack cocaine.” You can listen to her interview with The Baseball Reporters here:
According to police, the man told them he was “he was traveling to Boston to see a friend who is a professional baseball player.” He then told officers the box in his car contained books and was given to him in New York by Ramirez’s mother to hand deliver to Ramirez. The man then called Ramirez via Facetime on his cell phone and handed it to the trooper, but Ramirez told the officer he was not aware his friend was coming to visit him with a box from his mother. Police then opened the box and said they found a bag with two kilograms of fentanyl inside.
The man’s attorney told the Globe, “his use of Mr. Ramirez’s name was an ill-thought-out attempt to evade further police scrutiny. … he is hoping he’s not going to be arrested; he’s trying to avoid them from searching the vehicle and the box.” His attorney added, “He feels awful that this has had any fallout toward Mr. Ramirez.”
A Lawrence man was arrested on state drug trafficking charges in early June after police said they found 435 grams of fentanyl and seven grams of crack cocaine during a traffic stop in Methuen, Massachusetts. McPhee reported that the suspect who Facetimed Ramirez was caught with that amount of fentanyl. McPhee also said the suspect was arrested in Methuen.
Delcio Rodriguez, 29, was charged with Possession with Intent to Distribute a Class B Substance, Cocaine (one count) and Trafficking Fentanyl, 10 grams or more (one count) in state court, according to a press release.
There have been multiple arrests of people connected to the Lawrence drug ring in recent months.
Two men, a Dominican national who lives in Providence, and a Lawrence resident, were indicted on charges of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute 400 grams or more of fentanyl, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts said in a press release. The men, Dario Bier Romero, 27, of Providence, and Luis Cirino, 35, of the Dominican Republic, were arrested as part of an investigation by the DEA, Massachusetts State Police, Woburn Police and Providence Police.
There is no indication in court documents that Ramirez is connected to the investigation. You can read the criminal complaint filed in that case below:
In late April, 45 people were indicted on fentanyl trafficking conspiracy charges in federal court in New Hampshire, according to a press release. Many of the suspects were from Lawrence.
Federal and state authorities have not commented. Rumors had already been swirling about big news breaking regarding Ramirez, who was born in the Dominican Republic and has been in the major leagues since 2005. The Red Sox released a statement saying Ramirez was cut for “baseball reasons,” and MLB has declined to comment.
Kevin Gregg, the media relations director for the Red Sox, told The Athletic’s Jen McCaffrey the team was not aware of any investigation regarding Ramirez until a reporter reached out to the organization on Friday.
Ramirez was hitting .254 with 6 home runs and 29 RBI while splitting time at first base and designated hitter when the Red Sox designated him for assignment in late May and then released him June 1 after no team claimed him on waivers or tried to make a trade with Boston.
Ramirez had gotten off to a hot start for the Red Sox, hitting .330 with 3 home runs and 17 RBI in April, but was struggling in May, batting only .163 while hitting 3 home runs during that month. There were baseball reasons for his release, as Dustin Pedroia was set to be activated from the disabled list and first baseman Mitch Moreland was outperforming Ramirez.
Ramirez was born in Samaná, Dominican Republic, and was signed by the Red Sox in 2000 as an international free agent. He made his MLB debut in 2005 with Boston and was then traded to the Marlins during that off-season as part of a deal that sent Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell back to the Red Sox. He spent six seasons in Florida, before being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers. In November 2014, Ramirez signed a four-year $88 million deal to return to Boston, with an option for a fifth-year worth $22 million if he made enough plate appearances in 2018. Many cited the vesting option, which would cost the Red Sox more than Ramirez was likely worth, as a key reason for his release.
Ramirez, who is married and has three kids, appears to have returned to his native Dominican Republic after his release. His last Instagram post, made six days ago, was tagged at the Marina Casa de Campo fishing club in La Romana.