Former Los Angeles Dodgers star Yasiel Puig agreed to plea guilty to a federal charge of lying to federal law enforcement officials about sports bets he played with an illegal gambling operation, the Justice Department said Monday, citing recently unsealed court documents.
Puig, 31, agreed to plead guilty to one count of making false statements, which carries a maximum of five years in federal prison. He also agreed to pay a $55,000 fine and will appear in court Tuesday.
The Justice Department said Puig started placing sports bets through a third party in May 2019. The third party was identified in court documents “Agent 1.” The mysterious “Agent 1” worked on behalf of Wayne Joseph Nix, of Newport Coast, California, who ran the illegal gambling operation officials said.
Puig would call and send texts to “Agent 1” with wagers on games and the go-between would then submit the bets to Nix’s business. Puig owed the business $282,900 for losses, officials said. “Agent 1” and another person identified as “Individual B” directed Puig to write a check or make a wire transfer payable to a Nix gambling client, identified as “Individual A.” The business owed “Individual A” at least $200,000 in gambling winnings, officials said.
“On June 25, 2019, Puig withdrew $200,000 from a Bank of America branch in Glendale then purchased two cashiers’ checks for $100,000 each that were made payable to Individual A,” the Justice Department said in the news release. “Puig did not immediately send the checks due to a dispute over the balance and access to Nix-controlled websites used to place sports bets. Nix refused to allow Puig access to the betting websites until Puig’s gambling debt was paid.
“After Puig paid the $200,000, Nix provided Puig direct access to the betting websites. From July 4, 2019 to September 29, 2019, Puig placed 899 additional bets on tennis, football and basketball games through the websites.”
In 2019, Puig played for the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Guardians. On June 25, the Reds played the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim and by Sept. 29, Puig’s season was over. The Guardians were in D.C. playing the Washington Nationals.
Major League Baseball didn’t immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment.
Federal investigators interviewed Puig in January 2022. Officials said he falsely stated he only new “Agent 1” from baseball and that he never talked about gambling with him. He also said he didn’t know the person who told him to send the $200,000 in cashiers’ checks to “Individual A.”
Officials said Puig sent “Individual B” an audio message via WhatsApp in March 2022 sying he lied to federal agents during their interview.
“Under our system of justice, no one is above the law,” U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada of the Central District of California, said in a news release. “The integrity of our nation’s criminal justice system depends on people telling the truth, and those who fail to abide by this simple principal must face consequences.”
IRS Criminal Investigation Los Angeles Field Office Special Agent in Charge Tyler Hatcher added: “When given the opportunity to be truthful about his involvement with Nix’s Gambling businesses, Mr. Puig chose not to. Mr. Puig’s lies hindered the legal and procedural tasks of the investigators and prosecutors.”
Puig was playing baseball in South Korea. He joined the Dodgers from Cuba in 2012 and was an All-Star with them in 2014.