At least five major-leaguers have been named as defendants in a $35 million civil suit involving defective phone cards known as Grandes Ligas (Major Leagues).
According to a report in the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, Mets pitcher Pedro Martinez, Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada, Yankees pitcher Octavio Dotel and Devil Rays shortstop Julio Lugo are named in the lawsuit, along with American Worldwide Telecom, STX Communications, TWD Prepaid Cards, STI Mobile and Global Compass Inc.
Salvador Delgado, a lawyer representing convenience store owners who claim they unknowingly sold defective phone cards advertised by the players, told the Times that most of the cards were bought by Dominicans in the New York area who used them to call home. According to the lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in New York and claims fraud and deceptive advertising, a $2 card that was supposed to provide a 70-minute call actually provided nine or 10 minutes.
"These baseball players are basically heroes to the Dominican community," Delgado told the Times. "We find it disturbing they would be involved in a situation where products are defective and are being sold to the community under their image or their names."
Delgado also said that he wants the federal government to regulate phone card sales.
"This industry is of enormous importance to the immigrant community all across the United States," Delgado said.
Lugo's agent, Jeff Borris, refused to comment to the Times, and Devil Rays spokesman Rick Vaughn told the newspaper that the team has "no involvement at all in this matter." Ortiz's agent, Diego Bentz, told the Boston Globe that Dotel lured his client, Tejada and Martinez into the deal.
"They were trying to do a favor and it just snowballed," Bentz told the Globe.
Major League Baseball spokesman Pat Courtney told the Times the league is investigating and that MLB has no connection to the cards.