Pirates closer Felipe Vazquez arrested on child sex charges from Florida, Westmoreland County
Authorities in Florida and Pennsylvania on Tuesday filed charges against Pittsburgh Pirates closer Felipe Vazquez, who is accused of inappropriate sexual contact with minors.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement accused Vazquez, 28, of St. Cloud, Fla., of sending sexually explicit photos to a teenage girl in Florida and soliciting sex via text message.
Pennsylvania state police filed charges against Vazquez in Westmoreland County for an incident that allegedly occurred in Scottdale on Aug. 1, 2018, court records show. Details were not available, and no arraignment date was posted.
In the Western Pennsylvania case, Vazquez is charged with statutory sexual assault of a minor older than 11 years old, unlawful contact with a minor and corruption of minors, all felony counts, and indecent assault of a person younger than 16, a misdemeanor.
Police arrested Vazquez just after 11 a.m. Tuesday at his Pittsburgh apartment in the Strip District.
He is in Allegheny County Jail awaiting extradition to Lee County, Fla., where the Florida case will be prosecuted. In Pittsburgh Municipal Court Tuesday afternoon, Judge Eileen Conroy denied bail and said an extradition hearing is scheduled for Sept. 25.
“My understanding is further charges will be filed,” Conroy told Michael A. Comber, the Pittsburgh attorney representing Vazquez, during a brief hearing about 3:50 p.m.
Vazquez wore a black sweatshirt and black eyeglasses as he was arraigned via video.
“Yes,” he answered the judge when asked if he understood what was happening.
Comber would not comment on the case after the hearing, but asked Conroy to set bail in the case because his client doesn’t have a criminal record. He said the allegations “are not over physical contact or threats” and Vazquez would surrender all travel documents as a condition.
The judge denied the request.
“I do believe there is a flight risk in this case,” Conroy said.
She also denied the request “for the safety of the community.”
Vazquez is charged in Florida with giving obscene material to a minor and soliciting a child for unlawful sexual conduct, according to the heavily redacted criminal complaint filed in Florida court.
The complaint said that the investigation began Aug. 8, two weeks after the 15-year-old girl’s mother discovered text messages, photos and a video Vazquez sent to her daughter.
The explicit conversations began when the girl was 13, according to the FDLE.
On July 23, the child’s mother sent a text message to Vazquez informing him that she was a minor, according to the complaint.
Investigators wrote that while the photos and video sent to the child did not show Vazquez’s face, they did show his tattoos. A comparison to photos of Vazquez online showed the tattoos were the same, police wrote.
Police said the child referred to the person sending the messages as “Felipe” numerous times.
Portions of the criminal complaint detailing the photos and video allegedly sent by Vazquez were redacted, though police described them as “sexually explicit” and the video, sent in July, allegedly showed Vazquez “performing a sex act.”
Police said Vazquez solicited sex from the girl, indicating via text message that they would “meet for sex after his baseball season was over.”
Police in Pennsylvania seized a number of electronics from Vazquez’s Pittsburgh apartment, and officers said more charges could be filed after they are examined.
“We take this matter, and these charges in particular, extremely seriously,” Pirates President Frank Coonelly said in a statement Tuesday. “We have informed the Commissioner’s Office of the investigation and arrest. The Commissioner’s Office will immediately place Felipe Vazquez on administrative leave pursuant to the Joint MLB/MLBPA Policy. We need to be respectful to all involved and the ongoing legal proceeding.”
Vazquez, a two-time all-star, has been the Pirates’ most reliable pitcher over the past three seasons since he was acquired during the 2016 season in a trade with the Washington Nationals. In three-plus seasons with the Pirates, he has compiled a 15-9 record, 86 saves, a 2.17 ERA and 1.079 WHIP. He is 5-1 with 1.65 ERA and 28 saves this season. He was highly coveted at the trade deadline, but the Pirates’ asking price was high enough to keep him in Pittsburgh.
This month, he was fined by the Pirates for his involvement in a fight with teammate pitcher Kyle Crick, who suffered an injury to his index finger that required season-ending surgery. Vazquez had a cut on his nose in the days after the Pirates released information on the fight.
Last year, the Venezuela native legally changed his name from Felipe Rivero. At the time, he said he did it to match the surname of his sister, Prescilla, who negotiated his contract extension with the Pirates prior to spring training in 2018. The contract, which runs through 2021 with club options for 2022 and 2023, is worth $22 million in guarantees and potentially $41 million over the six years, MLB.com reported.