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Former Dodger Yasiel Puig lied to feds about illegal sports betting

The former MLB outfielder lied about a $200,000 payment he made in 2019 to settle his debt with an illegal bookie.

LOS ANGELES (CN) — Former LA Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig has agreed to plead guilty to lying to federal investigators about his involvement in illegal sports betting.

Puig, 31, has agreed to plead guilty to one count of making false statements, according to a statement Monday by the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles, The former Major League Baseball player, who is now plying his trade in South Korea, has agreed to pay a fine of at least $55,000.

According to Puig's plea agreement, he was questioned by Homeland Security investigators earlier this year and lied about discussing gambling with an unidentified agent for an illegal sports betting operation. The truth, according to the government, was that Puig and this agent had communicated hundreds of times over the phone and through text messages about betting on games.

He also lied about a $200,000 payment he made to an unidentified individual in 2019 to settle his gambling debt with the betting operation, according to the government.

 “Under our system of justice, no one is above the law,” United States Attorney Martin Estrada said in the 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 principal must face consequences.”

Puig's lawyer, Keri Curtis Axel, emphasized in a statement late Monday that her client hasn't been indicted for either gambling or for any purported involvement with a gambling ring. The only conduct at issue, Axel said, is what Puig said, or didn't say, in a Zoom interview with government agents on Jan. 27, 2022. 

"He takes responsibility for what happened that day, but the government’s charging documents don’t tell the whole story," Axel said.  "Since the government came forward last June and said they were going to indict him, Mr. Puig has consistently tried to make things right.  Under the sentencing guidelines, he will be eligible for probation.  He looks forward to putting this chapter behind him.”

Puig played for the Dodgers from 2013 to 2018, and his involvement with the illegal betting business started in 2019, after he had been traded to the Cincinnati Reds. There are no allegations in his plea agreement that he betted on games in which he participated.

The operator of the illegal sports betting business, Wayne Nix, pleaded guilty earlier this year. Nix began operating a bookmaking business about 20 years ago and, through his contacts in the sports world, he developed a client list that included current and former professional athletes. He employed three former professional baseball players to assist with the business.

Starting in May 2019, Puig began placing bets on sporting events through the unidentified agent who worked on behalf of Nix's gambling business. Within one month, Puig owed Nix's business $282,900 for gambling losses. To be able to continue betting with Nix, Puig was instructed to pay $200,000 to another person who was owed that amount from Nix's business.

After Puig had paid the $200,000, he placed 899 additional bets on tennis, football and basketball games though Nix's websites, according to the government.

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