FBI Interviews Bowden as Part of Probe

By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 12, 2008

Washington Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden met recently with representatives of the FBI as part of a probe examining the illegal signing practices of international players, especially those from the Dominican Republic, Bowden said last night.

Bowden, according to a report from ESPN.com that cited unnamed sources, is the highest-ranking baseball official yet involved in the widening investigation, which is examining the skimming of bonus money allotted for Dominican prospects. Bowden denied any wrongdoing or involvement in illegal activity -- on his part or his team's part. Implicated sources face the possibility of felony fraud charges.

José Rijo, an assistant general manager and the director of Washington's involvement in the Dominican Republic, will also be a part of the investigation. Rijo, currently at the team's Dominican baseball academy, said last night that Bowden called him two days ago to notify him that the FBI wanted to schedule an interview. Rijo will meet with investigators once he returns to the District in several weeks.

Asked if he had any knowledge of or involvement with money-skimming within the Washington organization, Bowden said: "No. Absolutely not.

"There's no wrongdoing. We've met with FBI investigators. There are many people throughout baseball that are going to be talking with the FBI and Major League Baseball trying to help get all the information out there for the problems that exist over there. We're there to help. But at no time when I met with the FBI were the questions revolving around myself or José Rijo."

Bowden declined to discuss the specifics of his conversation with investigators, nor would he say when the meeting occurred. Bowden and Rijo said they believe that the investigation involves all 30 Major League Baseball franchises.

"Honestly I'm not worried about it," Rijo said last night in a telephone interview. I am very happy that they're investigating the Dominican -- and whatever they want to look at, I'm available. I don't want to say anything to interrupt the investigation, but we're as clean as a whistle. I guarantee you. We're as clean as Irish Spring soap. We haven't been charged with anything."

The investigation, which includes the involvement of baseball's own investigators, was triggered by illegal activities discovered earlier this year among Chicago White Sox front-office personnel. Chicago player personnel director David Wilder, along with two others, was fired in May after a team investigation found what was called "actions in Latin America that were violations of club policy and standards." Those violations involved the skimming of money for prospects, the ESPN report said.

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