Former Major League Baseball outfielder Yasiel Puig agreed to plead guilty to a federal charge of lying to authorities about sports bets he placed with an illegal gambling operator. The court documents, which were unsealed on Monday (Nov. 14), were confirmed by a press release from the US Department of Justice.
Puig, 31, is identified as in the press release Yasiel Puig Valdesfaces one count of false testimony, which the Justice Department says carries a maximum statutory sentence of five years in federal prison.
The Cuban native has also agreed to pay a minimum fine of $55,000 and appear for the first time in United States District Court on November 15.
Puig, best known for his time with the Los Angeles Dodgers, is said to have placed bets on sporting events through a third party identified in court documents as “agent 1,’ who was working on behalf of an illegal gambling company operated by Wayne Joseph Nix46, from Newport Coast, as of May 2019, the document said.
Puig reportedly called “Agent 1” and sent him text messages with bets on sporting events, which “Agent 1” then transmitted to Nix’s gaming business on behalf of the baseball player.
As of June 2019, Puig reportedly totaled $282,900 in sports gambling losses thanks to Nix’s business.
“No one is above the law in our justice system,” the United States Attorney said Martin Estrada. “The integrity of our nation’s criminal justice system depends on people speaking the truth, and those who fail to live by this simple principle face consequences.”
“When given the opportunity to speak honestly about his involvement in Nix’s gaming operations, Mr. Puig decided against it,” added the IRS Los Angeles Criminal Investigation Department’s Special Agent in Charge Tyler Hatcher. “Mr. Puig’s lies hampered the legal and procedural tasks of investigators and prosecutors.
“Lying to federal agents is a serious criminal offense,” said HSI Los Angeles’ special agent in charge Eddie Wang. “HSI Los Angeles and our affiliates will actively pursue those who attempt to obstruct the fair administration of justice.”
Puig was reportedly instructed by “Agent 1” and another individual, identified in court documents as “Individual B,” to make a check or wire transfer to a Nix gambling customer, identified as “Individual A,” but Puig did not comply immediately.
Puig withdrew $200,000 from a Glendale Bank of America and purchased two cashier’s checks for $100,000 each payable to “Individual A” after he was banned from the gambling sites until his debt was paid off.
Puig paid the $200,000 owed to Nix and was granted direct access to the betting sites from July 4, 2019 to September 29, 2019, during which time he placed 899 additional bets on tennis, soccer and basketball matches placed.
Federal investigators questioned Puig, who was accompanied by his attorney at the time, in January 2022.
The baseball player is said to have lied to federal agents on several occasions, despite warnings it was a crime.
Puig falsely reported that he only knew “Agent 1” from baseball and had never 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 didn’t know the person who told him to send $200,000 in cashier’s checks to “Individual A” after agents showed him a copy of the cashier’s checks and falsely claimed he had bet online with an unknown person on an unknown website, resulting in a loss of $200,000.
Puig went on to become one of MLB’s fastest rising stars in his first two seasons with the Dodgers, earning an All-Star nomination in 2014.
The Cuban native was traded to the Reds ahead of the 2019 season and later to the now-Cleveland Guardians before the trade deadline later that season.
Puig is currently signed to the KBO League’s Kiwoom Heroes in South Korea.
Visit Justice.gov for more details.