Yasiel Puig Pleads Guilty To Lying To Federal Agents

Former MLB star and current KBO player, Yasiel Puig has plead guilty to lying to federal agents in in regard to an illegal gambling operation.[1] Puig, who spent 7 years in the MLB and was an All-Star in 2014, was questioned in January 2022 in regards to his potential use of an illegal gambling business run by Wayne Joseph Nix.[2]

In March 2022, a federal investigation revealed that Nix, among others, was running an illegal gambling business that was bringing in millions of dollars.[3] Nix, a former minor league baseball player himself, was recruiting former MLB and NFL players to act as agents for his business to help recruit clients.[4] This is likely how Puig became involved with the business. In March, Nix admitted that there were professional athletes, coaches, and player’s managers who used his business to gamble illegally.[5] Nix ran the business for about 20 years before finally being caught and pleading guilty.[6]

It has now been revealed that Puig was one of these players who was using Nix’s services. The investigation revealed that Puig owed at least $282,900 to Nix and started placing bets in May 2019.[7] Puig played for the Guardians and the Reds during the 2019 season, but there have been no allegations that he bet on those teams or on baseball in general. Puig was eventually cut off by Nix until he paid at least $200,000 of his debt, which he eventually did to continue gambling, which resulted in him placing an additional 899 bets with Nix.[8]

Puig’s Lies

When Puig was asked by federal agents about whether he knew someone connected to Wayne Joseph Nix, Puig said that he did not know this individual outside of baseball, and that he never discussed gambling with this individual.[9] It turns out that this was the person that Puig was placing his bets through, someone in Nix’s ring. When Puig denied knowing who this person was, investigators confronted him with the proof of the $200,000 checks that he sent to this person connected with Nix. Puig then continued to say that he did not know this person, and that this check was for a bet he placed with an unknown person.[10]

In March 2022, just 2 months after lying to the investigators, Puig sent an audio message to another individual connected to Nix, stating that he had lied to the investigators when he was questioned about everything.[11]

After making the investigators’ jobs very easy, Puig really did not have much of a choice but to plead guilty to the charge of making false statements to a federal agent. From the evidence of the $200,000 checks written to the person he said he did not know, to the audio message where he says that he lied to the federal agents, it seems like Puig finally made the smart choice.

After Puig pled guilty on Tuesday, his agent released a statement trying to legitimize why Puig said what he said to the federal agents, saying that Puig felt rushed and was not properly prepared, among other things.[12] Puig’s agent said, “He came to the interview feeling rushed, unprepared, without criminal counsel with him, and also lacked his own interpreter. Given his history growing up in authoritarian Cuba, government interviews are triggering and only worsen his ADHD symptoms and other mental health struggles, for which he is in treatment. He would have benefited from this care at the time of the interview.”[13]

https://a57.foxnews.com/static.foxnews.com/foxnews.com/content/uploads/2022/11/640/320/Yasiel-Puig3.jpg?ve=1&tl=1

This Was Not Supposed To Be About Puig

While all of this may be true, it is still just a matter of telling the truth or not. Puig really did not really even have to lie, as he was not being investigated for gambling and was not at any immediate risk of being prosecuted for anything, rather they were just trying to gather information on Nix and those involved with him. Puig’s agent reiterates this point and makes it clear that the rumors that Puig pled guilty because of the gambling, bet on baseball, or was involved within the ring are false, this was only a result of him lying.[14]

The government takes it very seriously when someone lies to them in an investigation.  The investigators said that, “When given the opportunity to be truthful about his involvement with Nix’s gambling businesses, Mr. Puig chose not to”, and that “Mr. Puig’s lies hindered the legal and procedural tasks of the investigators and prosecutors.”[15]

Puig’s mistake was that he thought he was going to be in trouble if he admitted to gambling with Nix, but this does not seem to have been the case. Rather, the investigators were trying to use Puig to their advantage. Had Puig told the truth, he would probably not be in any trouble. Instead, he now faces up to 5 years in prison and will pay at least a $55,000 fine.[16]


Feature Photo: https://img.bleacherreport.net/img/images/photos/002/979/253/bade6e1f6a96df96634e91aee319bb5e_crop_north.jpg?1405486208&w=3072&h=2048

[1] https://www.justice.gov/usao-cdca/pr/former-mlb-player-agrees-plead-guilty-felony-charge-lying-federal-agents-investigating

[2] Id.

[3] https://www.law360.com/articles/1479617/feds-say-illegal-betting-ring-recruited-ex-mlb-nfl-players

[4] Id.

[5] https://www.mercurynews.com/2022/03/31/ex-as-minor-leaguer-allegedly-led-illegal-sports-gambling-ring/

[6] Id.

[7] https://www.justice.gov/usao-cdca/pr/former-mlb-player-agrees-plead-guilty-felony-charge-lying-federal-agents-investigating

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] https://apnews.com/article/mlb-entertainment-health-sports-yasiel-puig-2983f7695f7286be03a3d401516ba750

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] https://www.justice.gov/usao-cdca/pr/former-mlb-player-agrees-plead-guilty-felony-charge-lying-federal-agents-investigating

[16] Id.

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University at Buffalo School of Law Class of 2023

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