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Nationals’ Livan Hernandez under investigation in money laundering case

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Federal authorities are investigating Washington Nationals pitcher Livan Hernandez for his possible connection to a money laundering case, U.S. attorney Rosa Emilia Rodriguez said Tuesday.

Hernandez’s name surfaced in the case during testimony in a drug trafficking trial in Puerto Rico that recently ended with the conviction of Angel Manuel Ayala-Vazquez, Puerto Rico’s biggest drug kingpin.

Major League Baseball has requested a meeting with authorities at the Puerto Rican District Attorney’s office, and the meeting likely will take place in “a couple weeks,” said Jacqueline Novas, special counsel to the U.S. Attorney in Puerto Rico.

“The Nationals are aware and continue to monitor the situation as it pertains to the Angel Manuel Ayala trial,” team spokesman John Dever said.

Hernandez, who has not been charged, declined comment through a team spokesperson. He displayed his usual demeanor before Wednesday night’s game at Nationals Park, chatting and sharing laughs with New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes.

“There is nothing interesting,” Hernandez said in Spanish when approached for comment. “When it’s interesting, I’ll tell you.”

When asked if he had an attorney to speak for him or if he knew Vazquez, Hernandez declined to elaborate.

“At one point, I’ll tell my side — without a problem,” he said.

Federal authorities in Puerto Rico turned their attention to Hernandez and other celebrities mentioned during the trial in connection with money laundering following Vazquez’s conviction on drug-related charges this week. Vazquez was convicted along with his brother, Luis Xadiel Cruz Vazquez. At this point, Novas said, the money-laundering link between Vazquez and Hernandez remains “speculation.”

According to accounts in Puerto Rican newspapers, a witness for the prosecution, Miguel Antonio Montes Nieves, is the man who mentioned Hernandez’s name during Vazquez’s trial. Nieves is in jail on drug trafficking charges.

Nieves, according to the news accounts, testified that Hernandez was a friend of Vazquez. Nieves claimed he was sent in November 2005 to check on two luxury sports cars — a Lamborghini and a Porsche — before they were shipped to Puerto Rico. Nieves’s testimony claimed the cars were paid for with drug money from Vazquez but were in Hernandez’s name. Also according to local reports, a warehouse with a recording studio, mechanic’s shop and offices were under Hernandez’s name.

Nieves testified on March 30, the day before Hernandez threw 61 / 3 innings in a 2-0 loss to the Atlanta Braves on opening day at Nationals Park.

Hernandez, 36, has pitched for the Nationals in parts or all of five seasons and has become one of their most significant players since baseball returned to Washington. He threw both the first pitch in Nationals history and the first pitch in Washington in 2005. His laconic personality and workhorse reliability have made him one of the team’s most popular players.

Hernandez this season is 2-2 with a 3.48 ERA. He is listed on the team’s official Web site as the Nationals probable starter for Thursday night’s game against the Mets.

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