Former MLB All-Star Yasiel Puig may go to prison. That’s after it was revealed Monday that he reached a plea agreement with federal prosecutors in an illegal gambling investigation.
According to a release from the US Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, Puig will enter a guilty plea Tuesday. He will admit he lied to federal agents about placing wagers through an unidentified person connected with Wayne Nix.
Nix, a former minor league baseball player, entered a guilty plea in April to running an illegal gambling ring and filing a false tax return. Nix set up his gambling business about 20 years ago. In a March statement, prosecutors said he used his contacts within sports to land current and professional athletes as clients.
Puig was one of those clients. According to federal agents, the 31-year-old former Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder had racked up $282,900 in losses by June 2019. Nix blocked Puig from placing more bets on websites he controlled until Puig paid $200,000.
From July 4, 2019, to Sept. 29, 2019, Puig placed nearly 900 bets on tennis, football, and basketball games. He played for the Cincinnati Reds and the Cleveland Indians during that time frame.
That was Puig’s final season in MLB. The 31-year-old played last year in the Mexican League and this year in the Korean Baseball Organization.
Puig Lied About Bets
The US Attorney’s Office filed a plea agreement on Aug. 29. It became unsealed in court Monday.
Federal investigators questioned Puig about his involvement in January. Despite warnings he could face charges if he lied, Puig told investigators that he only knew “Agent 1” through baseball and did not ever talk to that person about gambling.
When presented copies of the $200,000 in cashiers’ checks, authorities say Puig then said he placed a wager online “with an unknown person on an unknown website,” causing him to lose the money.
In March, Puig then sent someone identified only as “Individual B” an audio message where he admitted lying to the investigators.
“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.”
Puig also agreed to pay a fine of at least $55,000. He also could face as much as five years in prison.
In seven MLB seasons, the first six of which were with the Dodgers, Puig hit .277 with 132 home runs and 415 runs batted in. The Cuban native was runner-up in the NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2013. He earned his only All-Star appearance the following year.
Another Ex-MLB Player Pleads Guilty
Authorities also filed another plea agreement on Monday involving another former MLB player. Erik Kristian Hiljus, 49, could serve as much as six years in prison after agreeing to plead guilty to two counts of subscribing to false tax returns.
Prosecutors said Hiljus, who played for the Detroit Tigers and Oakland A’s from 1999 to 2002, served as an agent for Nix. However, authorities said Hiljus was not connected to the bets placed by Puig.
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