LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Former Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig is expected to make his initial appearance in federal court Tuesday after agreeing to plead guilty for lying to federal officials about bets on sporting events that he placed with an illegal gambling operation.
According to court documents unsealed Monday, the 31-year-old Puig, who now plays in South Korea, has agreed to plead guilty to one count of making false statements — a crime that carries a sentence of up to five years in federal prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“Under the sentencing guidelines he will be eligible for probation and he looks forward to putting this behind him,” Keri Axel, Puig’s attorney, told the Los Angeles Times.
Puig has agreed to pay a fine of at least $55,000, The Times reported.
“Under our system of justice, no one is above the law,” U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada said in a statement. “The integrity of our nation’s criminal justice system depends on people telling the truth, and those who fail to abide by this simple principle must face consequences.”
According to his plea agreement, Puig — who also played for the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians — began placing bets on games in May 2019 through an unidentified man who worked on behalf of an illegal gambling business run by Wayne Nix, 46, a former minor league pitcher who lives in Newport Coast.
Within a month, Puig’s losses reached $282,900, the plea agreement states.
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, including when he said that he never discussed gambling with the bookie, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
In fact, Puig discussed sports betting with the man hundreds of times on the telephone and via text message, federal prosecutors said.
Nix pleaded guilty in April to one count each of conspiracy to operate an illegal sports gambling business and filing a false tax return. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 8.
Federal prosecutors on Monday also filed a plea agreement for former MLB player Erik Kristian Hiljus, 49, of Panorama City, who agreed to plead guilty to two counts of subscribing to false tax returns and will face up to six years in federal prison upon entering his guilty plea. Hiljus was an agent for Nix’s illegal gambling business but did not work with Puig.