Former Dodger Yasiel Puig to plead guilty lying about illegal sports bets

Yasiel Puig #66 of the Los Angeles Dodgers on October 28, 2018 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Former Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig agreed to plead guilty Monday to lying to federal officials about illegal sports bets he made, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Puig played for three different Major League Baseball franchises between 2013 and 2019, but currently plays professional baseball in South Korea. According to a plea agreement filed back in August, in May 2019 — while he was still playing for the Cincinnati Reds — Puig began placing bets on sporting events through a third party who worked on behalf of an illegal gambling business run by a former pro baseball player Wayne Nix out of Orange County.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, none of the bets Puig placed were on baseball games.

By June 2019, the U.S. Attorney's Office said, Puig owed Nix nearly $300,000 in gambling losses. Puig was then told to write checks to a bettor to whom Nix's operation owed winnings, before Puig would be allowed to place more bets. 

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Former pro baseball player charged in illegal sports betting ring involving former, current pro athletes

In a January 2022 interview, Puig lied to investigators about his relationship with the third party; said that he didn't know who instructed him to write the check, among other lies, according to investigators. Investigators also said Puig admitted in a March 2022 WhatsApp audio message that he'd lied to federal agents.

"When given the opportunity to be truthful about his involvement with Nix’s gambling businesses, Mr. Puig chose not to," said IRS Criminal Investigation Los Angeles Field Office Special Agent in Charge Tyler Hatcher. "Mr. Puig’s lies hindered the legal and procedural tasks of the investigators and prosecutors."

Puig has agreed to pay a fine of at least $55,000, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. He will make his first court appearance on Nov. 15. 

Nix pleaded guilty on April 11 to one count of conspiracy to operate an illegal sports gambling business and one count of filing a false tax return. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 8, 2023.

Federal prosecutors 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.

Homeland Security and IRS investigators are still investigating this case.