A friend of former Red Sox first baseman Hanley Ramirez dropped his name in an effort to avoid arrest while transporting fentanyl from New York to Massachusetts in April, then immediately admitted the player had no connection to the drugs, according to documents filed in US District Court in Boston.
Ramirez is not under federal investigation and has not been linked to any drug ring, according to several people with direct knowledge of the case. The 34-year-old has been a free agent since the Red Sox released him on June 1.
An attorney, who represents the man arrested with the drugs and spoke on the condition that his client not be named because of concerns about his safety, said his client grew up in the Dominican Republic with Ramirez and used his name “to get the cops off his back, which didn’t work.”
The man was stopped by State Police in western Massachusetts in April after a confidential informant tipped the Drug Enforcement Administration that he would be delivering two kilograms of cocaine to Massachusetts, according to a DEA affidavit filed in court.
The man told the trooper “that he was traveling to Boston to see a friend who is a professional baseball player,” the affidavit says. The document doesn’t identify the player by name, but multiple people, including the man’s attorney, said he was referring to Ramirez.
The man consented to a search of his Jeep, but when the trooper asked to open a brown cardboard box found in the rear cargo area, the man declined, saying it belonged to Ramirez.
The man claimed that the box contained books, and that Ramirez’s mother “had shipped the box to him in New York to hand-deliver to his friend [Ramirez] in Boston,” according to the affidavit.
In an attempt to back up his story, the man called Ramirez via FaceTime on his cellphone, then handed it to the trooper. The trooper asked Ramirez if he was aware that his friend was en route to visit him and was delivering a box from his mother. Ramirez said he “was not aware,” according to the affidavit. The trooper asked if he could open the box and Ramirez agreed.
The box contained a gift bag, with two kilograms of fentanyl inside, the affidavit says.
The man was arrested on drug trafficking charges and “immediately began stating that his friend [Ramirez] was not involved at all, and that the box wasn’t for him,” the affidavit says.
The man’s attorney, who asked that he not be named because of concerns it would help identify his client, said “his use of Mr. Ramirez’s name was an ill-thought-out attempt to evade further police scrutiny.”
The attorney said at the time his client dropped the baseball player’s name “he is hoping he’s not going to be arrested; he’s trying to avoid them from searching the vehicle and the box.”
On Friday, following a report that Ramirez was being eyed in a federal and state drug investigation, Red Sox vice president of media relations Kevin Gregg said that the team was unaware of any investigation involving Ramirez.
Gregg said the team dropped Ramirez from the roster in May solely for baseball reasons.
Ramirez was informed May 25 that he was being designated for assignment.
On Sunday, Adam Katz, Ramirez’s agent, released a statement saying, “The reporting on Hanley’s involvement in this matter was reckless and irresponsible. It’s unfortunate that one careless, inaccurate story can generate such widespread negative and damaging coverage. Hanley is pleased to be absolved from wrongdoing and having any involvement in this matter.”
Late Sunday, Ramirez commented on Twitter:
In a text on Friday, Katz had told the Globe that Ramirez “has no knowledge of any of the allegations contained in this media report and he is not aware of any investigation.”
The attorney for the man who mentioned Ramirez’s name during the drug stop said there was never any belief by law enforcement officials that Ramirez had anything to do with his client’s case.
“He feels awful that this has had any fallout toward Mr. Ramirez,” the attorney said.
While troopers were transporting the man back to the State Police barracks in Sturbridge after arresting him, the man said he was “trying to make some extra money by taking the drugs to Lawrence, and that he did not know who the drugs were for,” according to the affidavit.
Later he told police that “he had found a box containing the drugs outside of a building in the Bronx and stolen it,” then repackaged the drugs, put them in the box and was driving them to Lawrence to look for a buyer.
The man has pleaded not guilty to an indictment charging him with possession with intent to distribute 400 or more grams of fentanyl. A judge ordered that he remain in custody without bail until the case is resolved.Nick Cafardo and Alex Speier of the Globe Staff contributed to this report. Shelley Murphy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @shelleymurph.