Former Reds outfielder Yasiel Puig pleads guilty in illegal gambling investigation

Puig admitted to placing illegal bets while a member of the Reds in 2019.
Former Reds outfielder Yasiel Puig
Former Reds outfielder Yasiel Puig(Sam Greene/The Enquirer)
Published: Nov. 14, 2022 at 9:11 PM EST
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CINCINNATI (Enquirer) - Yasiel Puig agreed to plead guilty to making false statements to federal agents after he placed bets with an illegal sports gambling operation while he was a member of the Cincinnati Reds in 2019, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles announced Monday after court documents were unsealed.

Puig, who played baseball in South Korea this year, agreed to pay a $55,000 fine and is scheduled to make a court appearance Tuesday. The one count of making a false statement to a federal law enforcement official carries a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office, citing Puig’s plea agreement, said Puig began placing bets in May 2019. Puig made his bets through a third party for an illegal gambling business and accrued losses totaling $282,900 by June.

When the Reds played an away series against the Los Angeles Angels, Puig withdrew $200,000 and purchased two cashiers’ checks for $100,000 each on June 25, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s press release. From July 4-Sept. 29, 2019, Puig placed an additional 899 bets on tennis, football and basketball games.

Puig was traded from the Reds to the Cleveland Guardians on July 31, 2019. He has not played in the major leagues since he became a free agent at the end of the 2019 season. He reportedly agreed to a one-year contract with Atlanta in 2020, but it was nixed after he tested positive for COVID-19. He played in Mexico in 2021 and Korea in 2022.

In January 2022, Puig was interviewed by federal investigators alongside his lawyer, according to the U.S. Attorney Office’s press release. Puig lied “several times,” and denied he used the third party to place his initial bets. The press release said he admitted to lying to federal agents two months later in a WhatsApp audio message.

This latest incident likely closes the door on Puig returning to Major League Baseball. The 31-year-old right fielder spent six seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers before he was traded to the Reds. In 100 games with Cincinnati, Puig hit .252 with 22 homers, 61 RBI and 14 stolen bases.

“When given the opportunity to be truthful about his involvement with (Wayne) Nix’s gambling businesses, Mr. Puig chose not to,” said Tyler Hatcher in a statement, the special agent in charge for Los Angeles IRS criminal investigations. “Mr. Puig’s lies hindered the legal and procedural tasks of the investigators and prosecutors.”

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, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in its press release. Nix’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 8, 2023.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office did not indicate Puig placed any bets on baseball games.

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