Cuban-born American professional baseball right fielder for Kiwoom Heroes of the KBO League Yasiel Puig agreed to plead guilty for lying to federal officials about sports bets he placed with an illegal gambling operation, the Department of Justice announced on Monday.
Puig agreed to pay a fine of at least $55,000, and will plead guilty to one count of making false statements, which has a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison.
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Puig placed sports bets with a business run by Wayne Nix, a former minor league pitcher with the A’s who in April pled guilty of conspiracy to run an illegal gambling operation and filing a false tax return.
The U.S. Attorney Office press release states that Puig began gambling on sporting events with the operation in May 2019, and within a month owed Nix’s business $282,900. After that:
Agent 1 and another person identified in court papers as “Individual B” instructed Puig to make a check or wire transfer payable to a Nix gambling business client – identified in court papers as “Individual A” – to whom the business owed at least $200,000 in gambling winnings.
On June 25, 2019, Puig withdrew $200,000 from a Bank of America branch in Glendale then purchased two cashiers’ checks for $100,000 each that were made payable to Individual A. Puig did not immediately send the checks due to a dispute over the balance and access to Nix-controlled websites used to place sports bets. Nix refused to allow Puig access to the betting websites until Puig’s gambling debt was paid, according to True Blue LA.
After Puig paid the $200,000, Nix provided Puig direct access to the betting websites. From July 4, 2019 to September 29, 2019, Puig placed 899 additional bets on tennis, football and basketball games through the websites.
Puig was playing for the Reds to start 2019, and had a game in Anaheim on June 25, the date he made that withdrawal mentioned in the press release. Puig was traded to Cleveland in July, and finished off the season with them.
Puig reportedly agreed to join the Braves in July of 2020, but that deal fell through after he tested positive for COVID. He played with Veracruz in the Mexican League in 2021. Puig signed with Kiwoom in the Korean Baseball Organization in December 2021, a few days before a report in the Washington Post detailed that Puig reached confidential settlements in 2017 with two women who accused him of sexual assault. Puig was also sued in October 2020 for an alleged sexual assault at Staples Center in 2019, but that matter was settled for $250,000.
In January 2022, Puig said, “We’re going to do the best we can everyday now, in Korea, for this season and the next season, to come back to the United States and hope God gives me the opportunity one day to come back to the Dodgers,” according to CBS Sports.
In that same month, Puig was interviewed by the FBI about his involvement in Nix’s gambling operation. From the U.S. District Attorney:
In January 2022, federal investigators interviewed Puig in the presence of his lawyer. During the interview, despite being warned that lying to federal agents is a crime, Puig lied several times. During the interview, he falsely stated that he only knew Agent 1 from baseball and that he never discussed gambling with him, when in fact Puig discussed sports betting with Agent 1 hundreds of times on the telephone and via text message.
After agents showed Puig a copy of one of the cashiers’ checks he purchased on June 25, 2019, Puig falsely stated that he did not know the person who instructed him to send $200,000 in cashiers’ checks to Individual A. Puig also falsely stated that he had placed a bet online with an unknown person on an unknown website that resulted in a loss of $200,000.
In March 2022, Puig sent Individual B an audio message via WhatsApp in which he admitted to lying to federal agents during the interview two months earlier.
Puig is expected to appear in United States District Court on Tuesday.
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Sources: True Blue LA, CBS Sports
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