Former Major League Baseball outfielder Yasiel Puig agreed to plead guilty in relation to a federal charge for lying to authorities about sports bets he made with an illegal gambling operator, court documents unsealed on Monday (November 14) confirmed via a United States Department of Justice news release.
Puig, 31, identified in the news release as Yasiel Puig Valdés, faces one count of making false statements, which carries a statutory maximum sentence of five years in federal prison, according to the Department of Justice.
The Cuban native has also agreed to pay a fine of at least $55,000, as well as make an initial appearance in United States District Court on November 15.
Puig, best known for his stint with the Los Angeles Dodgers, is reported to have placed bets on sporting events through a third party identified in court documents as 'Agent 1,' who worked on behalf of an illegal gambling business run by Wayne Joseph Nix, 46, of Newport Coast, beginning in May 2019, the document states.
Puig reportedly called and sent text messages to 'Agent 1' with wagers on sporting events, which were then submitted by "Agent 1" to Nix's gambling business on behalf of the baseball player.
Puig reportedly totaled $282,900 in sports gambling losses owed to Nix's business as of June 2019.
“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,” added 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 reportedly instructed by 'Agent 1' and another person identified in court documents as "Individual B" to make a check or wire transfer payable to a nix gambling client, identified as 'Individual A,' but Puig didn't immediately comply.
Puig withdrew $200,000 from a Glendale Bank of America and purchased two cashiers' checks for $100,000 each, which were made payable to 'Individual A' after he was prohibited from accessing the gambling sites until his debts were paid.
Puig paid the $200,000 owed to Nix and was given direct access to the betting websites from July 4, 2019 to September 29, 2019, placing 899 additional bets on tennis, football and basketball games during that span.
Federal investigators interviewed Puig, who was accompanied by his lawyer at the time, in January 2022.
The baseball player is reported to have lied to federal agents several times despite being warned that doing so was a crime.
Puig reported falsely stated that he only knew 'Agent 1' from baseball and hadn't ever discussed gambling with him, while agents had evidence that Puig had discussed sports betting with 'Agent 1' hundreds of times through phone calls and text messages.
Puig also falsely claimed that he did not know the person who told him to send $200,000 in cashiers' checks to 'Individual A' after agents showed him a copy of the cashiers' checks and falsely claimed that he placed a bet online with an unknown individual on an unknown website, which resulted in losing $200,000.
Puig emerged as one of MLB's fastest rising stars during his first two seasons with the Dodgers, earning an All-Star nod in 2014.
The Cuban native was traded to the Reds prior to the 2019 season and later traded to the now-Cleveland Guardians prior to the trade deadline later that season.
Puig is currently signed to the Kiwoom Heroes of the KBO League in South Korea.
More details can be found on Justice.gov.