Former MLB Star Yasiel Puig Facing Jail Time for Involvement in Sports Gambling Operation
Yasiel Puig could spend a good amount of time in prison soon. The former MLB player has agreed to plead guilty to a federal charge for lying to law enforcement officials about sports bets he made with an illegal gambling operator, according to ESPN. Puig could serve five years and federal prison once he pleads guilty to one count of making false statements. He will pay a fine of at least $55,000 and make his first appearance in U.S. District Court on Tuesday.
Per the plea agreement, Puig began placing bets on sporting events in May 2019 through a third party who worked for an illegal gambling operation run by former minor league baseball player Wayne Nix. Puig, who played for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland during his seven-year MLB career, was down over $282,000 to Nix’s gambling business by June 2019. After paying off $200,000 of his debt, Puig placed 899 additional bets on tennis, football and basketball games over the next few months.
In January of this year, Puig was interviewed by federal investigators. In the plea agreement, Puig acknowledged lying to the agents who were looking into the operation, denying that he placed any bets with the company. Nix pleaded guilty in April to conspiracy to operate an illegal sports gambling business and filing a false tax return.
“When given the opportunity to be truthful about his involvement with Nix’s gambling businesses, Mr. Puig chose not to,” IRS Criminal Investigation Los Angeles Field Office Special Agent in Charge Tyler Hatcher said in the release. “Mr. Puig’s lies hindered the legal and procedural tasks of the investigators and prosecutors.”
Prosecutors said that Nix’s operation ran for two decades and included current and former pro athletes as employees or clients. Former MLB player Erik Kristian Hiljus agreed to plead guilty to two counts of subscribing false tax returns. Prosecutors claim that Hiljus was an agent for Nix’s operation.
Puig, 31, began his career with the Dodgers in 2013 and was with the team for six seasons. He was then traded to the Reds before the 2019 season and with the team for half the year before joining Cleveland. Puig, who was selected as an All-Star in 2014, currently plays in South Korea.