Former Major League Baseball (MLB) All-Star Yasiel Puig has pled guilty to charges for lying to federal agents who were investigating an illegal gambling operation.
Federal law enforcement agents interviewed Puig regarding bets he placed on sporting events with an illegal gambling operation run by an individual named Wayne Nix. The Cuban-born baseball star has agreed to plead guilty to one count of making false statements – an offense for which he could face up to five years in federal prison.
Puig, who currently is a right fielder for the Kiwoom Heroes in South Korea, has agreed to pay a fine of at least $55,000 and to make an initial appearance in US District Court.
“Under our system of justice, no one is above the law,” said United States Attorney Martin Estrada. “The integrity of our nation’s criminal justice system depends on people telling the truth, and those who fail to abide by this simple principle must face consequences.”
“When given the opportunity to be truthful about his involvement with Nix’s Gambling businesses, Mr. Puig chose not to,” said IRS Criminal Investigation Los Angeles Field Office Special Agent in Charge Tyler Hatcher. “Mr. Puig’s lies hindered the legal and procedural tasks of the investigators and prosecutors.”
“Lying to federal agents is a serious offense,” said HSI Los Angeles Acting Special Agent in Charge Eddy Wang. “HSI Los Angeles and our partners will actively pursue those that seek to hinder the fair administration of justice.”
Puig was named an MLB All-Star in 2014 and played in the World Series in both 2017 and 2018.
The plea agreement, which was filed on 29 August, details Puig’s involvement with the illegal gambling ring. In May 2019, the player started placing bets on sporting events through a third-party who worked for the illegal gambling business operated by former Minor League Baseball player Wayne Nix.
By June, Puig owed Nix’s operation $282,900 in gambling losses. Through agents working for the ring, Puig was ordered to make a check or wire transfer to a client of the business who was owed at least $200,000 in winnings.
Puig paid his debts, and continued to gamble using the operation’s betting website. From 4 July 2019 to 29 September 2019, Puig placed 899 additional bets on tennis, football and basketball games.
As part of an investigation of Nix’s operation, federal investigators interviewed Puig in the presence of his lawyer. During the course of this session, Puig lied several times about the nature of his involvement from the operation.
He was untruthful about his connections with figures associated with the ring, the mechanisms of how he gambled, and admitted in Whatsapp audio messages that he had to federal law enforcement agents.
On 11 April, Nix himself pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to operate an illegal sports gambling business and one count of filing a false tax return. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for 23 March 2023.