Former Dodger Yasiel Puig Will Fight To Clear Name In Federal Gambling Probe, With Hopes To Play For MLB
Former Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig will reportedly fight to clear his name in a federal gambling case. The news comes shortly after federal prosecutors said Puig had agreed to plead guilty to allegedly lying to investigators. Now Puig has reversed course as he aims to reenter the league.
Puig, 31, a free agent and is looking to be signed by a Major League Baseball team after spending a year playing in Korea. His attorneys claim that he will not be pleading guilty after new evidence has come to light that casts serious doubts on the allegations against him.
Puig became the subject of national headlines when he was named in a press release from the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California’s Office. The release claimed Puig agreed to plead guilty to one count of making false statements to federal agents, in a federal illegal gambling investigation.
According to Puig’s original plea, Puig participated in a zoom back in January with federal authorities including agents from the Department of Homeland Security and the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigations unit.
Prosecutors claim Puig lied multiple times when asked about his ties to a gambling operation run by a former minor league baseball player named Wayne Nix.
“Through his contacts in the sports world, Nix developed a client list that included current and former professional athletes, and he employed three former Major League Baseball players to assist with the business,” prosecutors said.
Nix struck a deal back in March when he pled guilty to conspiring to operate an illegal sports gambling business and filing a false tax return.
According to prosecutors, Puig allegedly placed bets through an associate of Nix, whom he met when he was on the Cincinnati Reds back in 2019. Prosecutors claim Puig incurred $282,900 in gambling debts, later placing another 899 bets.
“When given the opportunity to be truthful about his involvement with Nix’s Gambling businesses, Mr. Puig chose not to,” Tyler Hatcher, the IRS Criminal Investigation Los Angeles Field Office Special Agent in Charge, said in a DOJ press release. “Mr. Puig’s lies hindered the legal and procedural tasks of the investigators and prosecutors.”
Puig’s attorneys deny that Puig lied, saying he was not properly represented by counsel at the time of the zoom interview. They also claim Puig has ADHD.
“At the time of his January 2022 interview, Mr. Puig, who has a third-grade education, had untreated mental-health issues, and did not have his own interpreter or criminal legal counsel with him,” Puig’s attorney Keri Axel said in a statement, referring to the January Zoom between Puig and federal agents where Puig allegedly agreed to strike a plea deal. “We have reviewed the evidence, including significant new information, and have serious concerns about the allegations made against Yasiel.”
Puig’s agent, Lisette Carnet, recently announced on social media that Puig will fight the allegations and enter a not guilty plea.
“I want to clear my name,” Puig said in a November 30th statement.
Puig was recently at the winter meetings of MLB in San Diego looking to get signed by a team, according to reports.
If Puig is signed by an MLB team, he could be investigated and disciplined if he violated MLB’s strict rules on gambling. Such discipline could set back his MLB career.
Puig allegedly confidentially settled two claims that were accusing him of sexual assault in 2017, according to reports.