Former Los Angeles Dodgers star Yasiel Puig pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents about an illegal gambling operation, the Department of Justice said on Monday night.
Puig pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements to federal authorities, which carries a sentence of up to five years in prison. He also agreed to pay a fine of at least $55,000.
The 31-year-old, who spent seven seasons with the Dodgers and parts of one season in both Cincinnati and Cleveland, is currently playing in the Korean Baseball Organization. He is due in court next on Tuesday.
Puig, the DOJ said, started placing bets on sporting events through a third party in May 2019. That third party allegedly worked for an illegal gambling business run by Wayne Joseph Nix. A month later, officials said, he owed Nix's company $282,900 in gambling losses.
After paying off $200,000 of his debt through cashiers checks, officials said Puig then placed 899 additional bets on tennis, football and basketball games over the next several months. It’s unclear if he ever placed bets on MLB games.
Puig was interviewed by federal investigators earlier this year about his gambling with Nix’s company, but officials said he “lied several times” — claiming he only knew the third party through baseball and never discussed gambling, despite texts to the contrary. Puig also later sent a WhatsApp audio message to someone at Nix’s company admitting to lying to federal agents.
Nix has since pleaded guilty to a count of conspiracy to operate an illegal sports gambling business and a count of filing a false tax return. Nix's business, the DOJ said, started about 20 years ago. His client list included several current and former professional athletes, and he employed three former MLB players.
Puig filed his guilty plea in August.
“When given the opportunity to be truthful about his involvement with Nix’s gambling business, Mr. Puig chose not to,” IRS criminal investigation special agent Tyler Hatcher said in a statement from the DOJ. “Mr. Puig’s lies hindered the legal and procedural tasks of the investigators and prosecutors.”