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Ex-White Sox exec sentenced in player kickback scheme

David Wilder (pictured 2005)  |  AP file photo

David Wilder (pictured in 2005) | AP file photo

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Updated: September 30, 2013 7:43AM

Already a boss in the Chicago White Sox organization, David Wilder was on track to become a top baseball executive — with Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker as his mentor.

But Wilder, the former senior director of player personnel for the White Sox, ended his promising baseball career in disgrace by taking $402,000 in kickbacks from signing bonuses and contract buyouts involving Latin American players.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Charles Norgle sentenced the 52-year-old San Francisco resident to two years in federal prison and ordered him to pay restitution.

Wilder pleaded guilty earlier this year to mail fraud. The kickback scheme involved 23 unidentified White Sox players between 2004 and 2008, prosecutors said.

Wilder’s lawyers sought a sentence of less than a year, arguing he did not devise the kickback scheme. Baker, who described himself as a mentor of Wilder, wrote a letter begging the court for leniency.

“Mr. Wilder became one of the most promising young African American executives in baseball,” said the former Cubs manager. “He was on a career path to become a general manager.”

Sports Illustrated senior writer Jon Heyman also sent the court a letter on Wilder’s behalf, calling him “affable, honest and loyal” in their dealings.

Still, prosecutors sought a sentence of two years in prison — at the lower range of the sentencing guidelines.

Although Wilder’s cooperation with the government led to criminal charges against two scouts, he “exploited the vulnerabilities of the generally young and unsophisticated players,” prosecutors said.

The two scouts — Jorge Oquendo-Rivera and Victor Mateo — have also pleaded guilty. Oquendo-Rivera, who devised the scheme, admitted taking $38,000 in kickbacks. Mateo, his assistant, admitted funneling $85,000 in kickbacks to Wilder and Oquendo-Rivera.

Oquendo-Rivera was sentenced to a year in prison and Mateo is scheduled for sentencing on Sept. 18.

In court papers, prosecutors disclosed a separate scheme for which Wilder wasn’t charged. He allegedly forced Oquendo-Rivera to make payments from his salary toward Wilder’s Range Rover.

Oquendo-Rivera told prosecutors he previously skimmed kickbacks from players when he worked for another unidentified Major League Baseball team. Prior to the Sox, he was an international scout for the Reds and New York Yankees.

The investigation started after the White Sox reported the matter to Major League Baseball, which then alerted federal authorities.

The White Sox fired Wilder and Mateo in 2008, a year after Oquendo-Rivera left the team. After the charges were filed in 2010, the White Sox said steps were being taken to keep Latin American players from getting victimized in such kickback schemes.


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