Ipswich: Cocaine-dealing fugitive ran away to Italy to become baseball player

Serious Organised Crime Agency photo of Eriberto Jimenez-Melo issued in 2011

Serious Organised Crime Agency photo of Eriberto Jimenez-Melo issued in 2011

A cocaine-dealing fugitive has finally been jailed for 25 years after carving out a professional baseball career in Italy while on the run.

Eriberto Jimenez-Melo became one of Britain’s most wanted criminals after jumping bail before his Ipswich Crown Court trial in August 2008.

He was found guilty in his absence of conspiracy to supply cocaine.

The 35-year-old was returned to the UK earlier this month after his recapture and has now been brought back before Ipswich Crown Court.

Jimenez-Melo was on the Serious Organised Crime Agency’s (SOCA) most wanted list in 2011.

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He was arrested in the northern Italian city of Parma where he played third base for the Serie A Parma Crocetta team.

Jimenez-Melo had assumed the identity of Marco Cesar Da Silva Frejtas after reportedly making his way to Italy a year ago under a false Portuguese passport.

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He caught the attention of the Parma baseball coaches with what was said to be his exceptional slugging ability. In May the club said he left the team due to family problems in Spain.

However, Jimenez-Melo was in custody as the Udine and Parma Caribinieri had raided his Parma home on May 6. He was extradited back the UK on July 9.

Jimenez Melo’s case was originally brought before Ipswich Crown Court by HM Revenue and Customs.

The Dominican-national had been responsible for looking after female drug mules at an address in Stamford Hill, London, where he lived.

The cocaine was then cut and mixed with another drug before being distributed and sold by Jimenez-Melo locally.

At his sentencing, Kenneth Aylett, mitigating, said as the person who was in control of items his client was expected to account for them by others involved in the operation.

Mr Aylett added said it was “unfortunate” that his client got bail before trial because the other people involved discovered he was not in custody and a month before the trial they demanded £300,000 from him.

Jimenez Melo gave them his apartment and car, but threats were made against his family and therefore he did not attend his trial.

Judge John Holt jailed Jimenez-Melo for 12 months for the bail offence, but agreed it should run concurrently with the 25-year drug sentence.

Jimenez Melo, also known as Nando and Eric, was originally believed to be on the run in Spain after skipping bail.

He was one of 10 individuals on SOCA’s Operation Captura most wanted list in February 2011.

After the cocaine supplier was finally jailed Lord Ashcroft, KCMG PC, founder and chairman of Crimestoppers, said: “Eriberto Jimenez-Melo has been on the Operation Captura list for over two years, so I am delighted that he has been located and can now serve his sentence.”

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