Ex-White Sox pitcher expected to plead guilty in U.S. cocaine case

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Esteban Loaiza, 46, was arrested in San Diego earlier this year after authorities say they found 44 pounds of cocaine in a van in his rented townhouse.

Two-time All-Star and former Chicago White Sox pitcher Esteban Loaiza is expected to plead guilty Friday in a federal cocaine distribution case, the ABC7 I-Team has learned.

The ex-Chicago baseball star had pleaded not guilty earlier this year in Southern California U.S. District Court to a charge of possession with intent to distribute 44 pounds of cocaine.

Loaiza, 46, has a "Change of Plea" hearing on the court's docket at 1 p.m. CDT Friday. A change of plea is a guilty plea in "99% of cases," said former federal prosecutor Gil Soffer, ABC7's legal analyst. It is referred to as a change of plea because the defendant originally pleaded not guilty.

Loaiza was arrested February 9 after authorities said they found cocaine inside a minivan parked in the garage of a townhouse he had rented near San Diego.

Federal investigators believe the property, which they found empty of furnishings, was being used as a transshipment point for cocaine. The day Loaiza was arrested, he had driven over the Mexican border, investigators said.

At the time he couldn't come up with the $24,000 cash required to bond out of jail, despite having made $43 million dollars during his 14-year career in Major League Baseball.

After a series of court hearings, Loaiza managed to make a significantly reduced bond in May, which involved a variety of financial sources, and the ex-MLB star has been out ever since.

A straight conviction on the charge would carry a 10-year mandatory minimum prison sentence and up to life behind bars.

The I-Team asked his San Diego attorney, Janice Deaton, for details of the plea agreement with prosecutors.

"I have no comment at this time," Deaton said Monday afternoon. She would not say whether Loaiza would still face jail time as a part of the plea deal or if she would seek probation.

A spokesperson for the United States Attorney in San Diego on Monday evening said the office would not comment on a pending case "outside the public record."

Investigators have not said whether Loaiza turned to the drug world because be needed income. Regardless, his star has fallen from where it was on the White Sox home opener 15 years ago in 2003.

Following the 2003 opening day win on the South Side, Loaiza won 20 more games. He is still tied for the most-ever wins in a season (21) by a Mexican-born pitcher.

He was born in Tijuana, Mexico. In addition to pitching for the White Sox he played with the Pirates, Yankees, Oakland A's and the Dodgers. Loaiza was once married to Jenni Rivera, a Mexican-American pop singing star who was killed in a plane crash in 2012 along with six other people. Two months before the crash, the 43 year old singer had filed for divorce from Loaiza.
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