Ex-MLB player Yasiel Puig to plead guilty in gambling case

Former Major League Baseball outfielder Yasiel Puig will plead guilty to lying to federal agents investigating an illegal gambling operation, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Monday.

Court documents unsealed Monday say Yasiel Puig Vald├ęs, 31, has agreed to plead guilty to one count of making false statements and could face up to five years in federal prison after pleading guilty. He also agreed to pay a fine of at least $55,000.

Puig hit .277 with 132 home runs and 415 RBI while appearing in seven major league seasons, the first six with the Dodgers, where he earned an All-Star selection in 2014.

He played for the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Guardians in 2019 before becoming a free agent. He then played in the Mexican League and last year signed a one-year, $1 million deal with South Korea’s Kiwoom Heroes.

In a plea deal in August, Puig acknowledged that in just a few months in 2019 he racked up more than $280,000 in losses while betting on tennis, soccer and basketball games through a third party working for an operation of illegal gambling directed by Wayne Nix, a former minor league baseball player.

Puig placed at least 900 bets through betting websites controlled by Nix and through a man who worked for Nix, authorities said.

In his plea agreement, Puig admitted lying in January to federal investigators probing the business, denying that he had placed bets through the operation.

Nix pleaded guilty in April to conspiring to operate an illegal sports betting business and filing a false tax return. Prosecutors said Nix’s operation spanned two decades and included current and former professional athletes as clients or employees.

Federal prosecutors also announced Monday that another former MLB player, Erik Kristian Hiljus, 49, of Los Angeles, had agreed to plead guilty to two counts of filing false tax returns. They said he was an agent of Nix’s operation.

Hiljus was drafted by the New York Mets in 1991, but made his major league debut in 1999 with the Detroit Tigers. He also played for the Oakland Athletics in 2001 and 2002. He pitched 124 innings over four seasons, going 8-3 with a career 4.72 ERA.

Hiljus could face up to six years in federal prison after sentencing.

Report from The Associated Press.

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