Washington Nationals Go Down Swinging

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The Washington Nationals baseball team sued its insurer for $1 million, claiming it was bamboozled for more than that by a Dominican pitcher who lied about his age to get an enormous signing bonus.
     The Washington Nationals Baseball Club sued Westchester Fire Insurance Co. in Superior Court.
     The claim springs from a 20-year-old Dominican pitcher who got a $1.4 million signing bonus by claiming he was 16, and conspiring with two club officials who backed up his bogus story in exchange for kickbacks, the Nationals say in the lawsuit.
     The Nats, the newest Major League team, claims Westchester refused to cover the team’s losses, which the team would not have paid had it known the hurler’s real age.
     According to the complaint, the Nationals signed Esmailyn Gonzalez to a Minor League contract worth a modest salary, but with a $1.4 million signing bonus because of his skill level for a 16-year-old. Gonzalez was also being scouted by the New York Yankees and the Texas Rangers, the Nationals say.
     The Nats signed Gonzalez in 2006, then realized it had been taken.
     “It subsequently came to light that Gonzalez’s real name was Carlos Alvarez Lugo and that in fact he was 20 years old at the time he signed his contract with the Nationals, not 16 years old,” the complaint states. “Lugo executed an affidavit detailing his fraud, including that he kicked back $300,000 of his bonus to Jose Rijo, at the time a special assistant to the Nationals’ general manager. Upon information and belief, Jose Baez, at the time of the Nationals’ director of Dominican Republic operations, also was involved in the scheme to defraud the Nationals. The Nationals subsequently terminated both Rijo and Baez.”
     The Nats say they reported the incident as employee theft to Westchester and after three months of silence, the company responded by asking for proof of its loss. The club says it provided everything Westchester asked for, but after two years was denied insurance coverage.
     Lugo never made it to the Big Leagues.
     The Nats say they had a $1 million policy with Westchester that covered employee theft, dishonesty and fraud.
     The team wants $1 million in damages for breach of contract and another million for breach of faith.
     It is represented by Dane Butswinkas with Williams Connolly.

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