Strange tales

Deportation and baby-napping collide in Florida. Plus, a badger double DUI shakes up the Justin Miller Award standings.
By MATT TAIBBI  |  April 1, 2009

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CRADLE ROBBER: Amalia Tabata Pereira is married to a Pirate outfielder half her age, which still doesn't explain why she was kidnapping a two month old.
Freaky. That's really the only word to describe the story of Amalia Tabata Pereira — the wife of top Pittsburgh Pirates prospect (and former Yankee farmhand) Jose Tabata. Pereira was arrested last week in one of the all-time strangest cases of sports-crime (it's technically a sports-crime-by-marriage), charged with kidnapping and false imprisonment after a bizarre scheme in which she allegedly posed as an immigration official and stole a baby from a Mexican couple near Tampa.

Pereira — who married the outfielder Tabata in January 2008 and has four children of her own — apparently approached Rosa Sirilo-Francisco as she was leaving a health center in Plant City, Florida, with her two-month-old baby. Pereira told the woman that she was an immigration official and that she, her baby, and her husband would be deported. Pereira then got in a car with the woman, rode to meet the husband, repeated the story, and offered to help, provided they hand over the baby, which they did (the baby was in Pereira's possession for 24 hours). The couple soon realized they had been cheated, called police, and after an AMBER Alert was issued, Pereira was quickly arrested.

Tabata said he was "hurt, frustrated, and confused" by his wife's actions, and pledged to cooperate fully with authorities. It now turns out that Pereira has at least two aliases and an extensive criminal record that includes fraud, paper-hanging, and arson (she spent nearly three years in prison for arson). How a top baseball prospect comes to marry a convicted arsonist more than twice his age (she's 43, he's 20) is another question.

Pereira invoked her right to remain silent upon arrest and therefore has given no reason for her behavior. It is not known what she planned to do with the baby. Very, very weird stuff indeed.

JMA race boils over!
And so the suspense builds. Each year here we give out the prestigious Justin Miller Award — in the form of a bronzed breathalyzer machine — to that NFL hopeful who most imperils his future by committing a senseless and highly publicized crime on the cusp of the NFL draft. So far this year there have been just a few contenders, including UAB safety Will Dunbar (who got busted for failing to register as a sex offender — oops!) and massive Ohio State tackle prospect Alex Boone (who got drunk and jumped up and down on parked cars). We can now add a third name into the mix, and this one might be the biggest yet: Wisconsin running back P.J. Hill.

Folks in our part of the country may not know a whole lot about the 5-11, 240-pound Hill, but he's big stuff in the Big Ten. In 2007, as a junior, he rushed for more than 1200 yards, putting him third on Wisconsin's career rushing list and reminding a lot of people of former Badger — and eventual NFL mega-bust — Ron Dayne.

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