Yasiel Puig pleads guilty to lying in betting case

LOS ANGELES — Former Major League Baseball outfielder Yasiel Puig will plead guilty to lying to federal agents investigating an illegal gambling operation, the US Department of Justice said Monday.

Court documents, unsealed Monday, confirmed that Cuban Yasiel Puig Valdes, 31, has agreed to plead guilty to the crime of false statement and could face up to five years in federal prison. He also agreed to pay a fine of at least $55,000.

Puig had a .277 batting average with 132 home runs and 415 RBIs in seven major league seasons, his first six being with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He was selected to the All-Star Game in 2014.

He was a player for the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Guardians in 2019 before becoming a free agent. He later played in the Mexican Baseball League and last year he signed a one-year, million-dollar deal with South Korea’s Kiwoom Heroes.

In the August plea agreement, Puig acknowledged that during a few months in 2019 he accumulated $280,000 in betting losses on tennis, soccer and basketball duels through third parties that were part of an illegal gambling operation run by Wayne Nix. , a former minor leaguer.

Puig placed 900 bets through the website controlled by Nix and another individual who worked for Nix, authorities said.

In his plea agreement, Puig acknowledged that he lied to federal investigators investigating the business in January and denied he gambled through the operation.

Nix pleaded guilty in April to conspiracy to operate an illegal gambling business and to filing a false tax return. The prosecution confirmed that Nix led the operation for two decades, counting current and retired athletes among his clients and employees.

Federal prosecutors also announced Monday that another former MLB player, Erik Kristian Hiljus, 49, also pleaded guilty to two counts of filing false tax returns. They indicated that he was an agent in the Nix operation.

Hiljus, was selected in the 1991 Draft by the New York Mets, but made his debut in 1999 with the Detroit Tigers. He also played for the Oakland Athletics in 2001 and 2002. He threw 124 innings in four seasons with an 8-3 record and a 4.72 ERA in his career.

Hiljus could face a sentence of up to six years in federal prison.

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Yasiel Puig pleads guilty to lying in betting case