Ex-Dodger Raúl Mondesi free after serving 7 years under house arrest for embezzling millions

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Raúl Mondesi is a free man.

The former Dodgers outfielder had been on house arrest since a 2017 conviction for embezzlement of public funds associated with his role as mayor of his Dominican Republic hometown, San Cristóbal.

A Dominican court ruled Friday that Mondesi’s original sentence of six years, nine months in prison had been satisfied by the duration of the house arrest. In 2017, in addition to the prison sentence, he was ordered to pay a $1.3 million fine for defrauding more than $6 million and was barred from holding public office for 10 years. Three of Mondesi’s staff members also were sentenced.

Mondesi, 53, was a mercurial figure as a ballplayer, a tremendous talent who invited comparisons to Roberto Clemente but who was prone to emotional outbursts and flouting rules with the Dodgers and five other teams during his 13-year career.

One of seven children raised by his mother, Martina, in a tiny home in San Cristóbal, he vowed to buy a new house for his mother after signing a one-year, $435,000 contract with the Dodgers after winning the Rookie of the Year award in 1994.

“My mother, she’s like superwoman,” he told The Times. “I can’t tell you what she means to me. My father died when I was 7, and she had to do everything. She worked in a laundry just to put food on the table.”

Mondesi twice joined the elite 30-30 club — hitting at least 30 home runs and stealing at least 30 bases — in his six-plus seasons with the Dodgers from 1993 to 1999. He won two Gold Gloves for his play in right field and early on earned a reputation as a hard worker.

He also enjoyed immense popularity in the Dominican Republic.

“He’s a hero in our country, a genuine hero,” Dodgers shortstop and countryman Jose Offerman said in 1995. “We’ve had a lot of players come through the Dominican … but I don’t know if anyone’s been more popular than Raúl.”

Mondesi would pack dozens of bats, gloves, and pairs of shoes and send them to Dominican kids each year.

“I never had anything when I grew up,” he said. “I’d play baseball, and all I’d have is cardboard for a glove. I would have given anything to have a real glove and bat.

“I want to help those kids. A lot of them are poor families. They can’t afford baseball equipment, so I help them.”

Four years later, however, Mondesi was a disgruntled powder keg who demanded a trade in a profanity-laced tirade against Dodgers manager Davey Johnson and general manager Kevin Malone in August 1999.

“I can’t take this anymore,” he told The Times. “I’ve had to deal with this all year. I told them to trade me because I don’t want to [expletive] be here. … “F— Davey and f— Malone, they try to put all of our problems on me. They’re trying to say that all this [s—] is my fault. That’s the way they feel, fine. Just get me out of here.”

Mondesi was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays that offseason and had three productive seasons before bouncing around as a reserve with four teams — including an eight-game stint with the Angels in 2004 — and retiring in 2005.

He earned $66.5 million during his career and returned to San Cristóbal, a dusty, overcrowded and impoverished city of 700,000. He expressed an interest in politics, and in 2006 was elected to the Chamber of Deputies — the Dominican equivalent of the U.S. House of Representatives — as a member of President Leonel Fernandez’s Dominican Liberation Party.

Mondesi jumped to the opposition Dominican Revolutionary Party during his second term, where he remained when elected mayor of San Cristóbal in 2010. The former player with a grade-school education was chosen as the party’s candidate over former major league pitcher José Rijo, another local hero who had returned home.

The two former players who earned more than $100 million between them lived in neighboring mansions, surrounded by 8-foot walls and protected by armed guards. Three years earlier, both were fined for rigging illegal connections to their homes that allowed them to use electricity without paying for it.

Soon after winning the election, Mondesi allegedly became engaged in questionable financial transactions. He served through 2016, when he and several other party leaders were charged with “conspiracy of officials, falsification of documents, use of false documents, prevarication, embezzlement, and crimes of mixing in affairs incompatible with the quality of official and association of criminals.”

Mondesi was convicted and put under house arrest while his case was appealed, a slow process that did not conclude until Friday.

In 2020, authorities petitioned the court to send Mondesi to prison for the remainder of his sentence because he was alleged to have violated the terms of the house arrest. Nothing came of it, and in 2023, the Court of Appeals of San Cristóbal ordered a new trial.

Despite avoiding jail, Mondesi’s precipitous decline from Dodgers darling to an explosive under-performer on the field, and from hometown hero and mayor to convicted thief off the field, was shocking.

It was a far cry from the glowing prediction from Al LaMacchia, the Blue Jays vice president of baseball operations, after Mondesi was acquired from the Dodgers 25 years ago.

“He won’t have to worry about money the rest of his life,” LaMacchia said. “His strength is close to Clemente, and if his instincts allow him to make the changes that he needs to make, he may be one of those that you remember for a long, long time.”

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