Puig to plead guilty in illegal sports betting case

Puig to plead guilty in illegal sports betting case

Former Major League Baseball player Yasiel Puig has agreed to plead guilty to a federal charge of lying to law enforcement officials about sports bets he made with an illegal gambling operator, according to documents released Monday by the US Department of Justice.

Puig, who now plays professionally in South Korea, will plead guilty to one count of making a false statement, a felony that carries a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison. He also agreed to pay a fine of at least $55,000.

Puig will make his first appearance in US District Court on Tuesday.

According to his plea agreement filed Aug. 29, Puig — who played for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland during a seven-year MLB career from 2013 to 2019 — began betting on from sporting events in May 2019 to a third party who worked for an illegal gambling operation run by Wayne Nix, a former minor league baseball player.

As of June 2019, Puig had lost $282,900 in Nix’s gambling business; after reimbursing $200,000 of his losses and regaining access to Nix-controlled betting websites, Puig placed an additional 899 bets on tennis, soccer and basketball matches from July 4, 2019 to September 29, 2019 .

The DOJ statement did not refer to any bets made on baseball. Puig played for Cincinnati and Cleveland in 2019 before becoming a free agent. He then played in the Mexican League and last year signed a one-year, $1 million deal with South Korea’s Kiwoom Heroes.

In January, federal investigators interviewed Puig in the presence of his attorney. In his plea agreement, Puig admitted lying to federal agents investigating the company, denying placing bets on the operation.

“When given the opportunity to tell the truth about his involvement in Nix’s gambling businesses, Mr. Puig chose not to,” said Tyler Hatcher, Special Agent in Charge of the Criminal Investigation of Nix. the IRS in Los Angeles, in the press release. “Mr. Puig’s lies have hampered the legal and procedural tasks of investigators and prosecutors.”

Nix pleaded guilty in April to conspiring to operate an illegal sports betting business and filing a false tax return. Prosecutors said Nix’s operation spanned two decades and included current and former professional athletes as clients or employees.

Federal prosecutors also announced Monday that another former MLB player, Erik Kristian Hiljus, 49, of Los Angeles, has agreed to plead guilty to two counts of underwriting false tax returns. They said he was an agent of the Nix operation.

Hiljus was drafted by the New York Mets in 1991, but made his major league debut in 1999 with the Detroit Tigers. He also played for the Oakland Athletics in 2001 and 2002. He pitched 124 innings in four seasons, going 8-3 with a career ERA of 4.72.

Hiljus could face up to six years in federal prison upon sentencing.

Puig batted .277 with 132 homers and 415 RBIs in his seven major league seasons, his first six with the Dodgers, with whom he earned an All-Star selection in 2014.

Information from The Associated Press and Reuters has been included in this report.

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