The Cincinnati Reds sure seem to find themselves connected to a whole lot of gambling issues over the course of their history, don’t they? The 1919 World Series. Pete Rose. And now Yasiel Puig. Unlike the other two times, Puig was not betting on or working with bettors on the game of baseball. But today he agreed to plead guilty for lying to federal investigators who were investigating an illegal gambling ring that Puig was using to bet on multiple other sports.

The United States Department of Justice released information that in 2019 Yasiel Puig went through an undercover agent to place bets via an illegal gambling website for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Puig was reportedly betting on tennis, football, and basketball during this time.

When the 2019 Major League Baseball season began, Yasiel Puig was a Cincinnati Red. He played in 100 games with Cincinnati that year after coming over in a big trade the previous December that included Kyle Farmer, Matt Kemp, and Alex Wood with Homer Bailey and prospects Jeter Downs and Josiah Gray heading to Los Angeles to join the Dodgers. At the trade deadline in 2019 the Reds moved Puig in a deal to to Cleveland that also sent prospect Scott Moss and Taylor Trammell out, and brought Trevor Bauer to Cincinnati in a 3-team deal that also included the San Diego Padres.

Following the 2019 season Yasiel Puig couldn’t find a big league job and has played in Mexico and Korea over the last two seasons – spending the 2022 season with Kiwoom in Korea where he hit 21 home runs and had an .841 OPS.

Below is the entire release from the Department of Justice:

A former Major League Baseball (MLB) player has agreed to plead guilty to a federal charge for lying to federal law enforcement officials about bets on sporting events that he placed with an illegal gambling operation, according to court documents unsealed today.

Yasiel Puig Valdés, 31, who currently plays professional baseball in South Korea, has agreed to plead guilty to one count of making false statements, a crime that carries a statutory maximum sentence of five years in federal prison.

Puig, who formerly played for the Los Angeles Dodgers and two other MLB franchises, has agreed to pay a fine of at least $55,000. Puig has agreed to make his initial appearance on November 15 in United States District Court.

“Under our system of justice, no one is above the law,” said United States Attorney Martin Estrada. “The integrity of our nation’s criminal justice system depends on people telling the truth, and those who fail to abide by this simple principle must face consequences.”

“When given the opportunity to be truthful about his involvement with Nix’s Gambling businesses, Mr. Puig chose not to,” said IRS Criminal Investigation Los Angeles Field Office Special Agent in Charge Tyler Hatcher. “Mr. Puig’s lies hindered the legal and procedural tasks of the investigators and prosecutors.”

“Lying to federal agents is a serious offense,” said HSI Los Angeles Acting Special Agent in Charge Eddy Wang. “HSI Los Angeles and our partners will actively pursue those that seek to hinder the fair administration of justice.”

According to his plea agreement, which was filed on August 29, in May 2019, Puig began placing bets on sporting events through a third party – identified in court documents as “Agent 1” – who worked on behalf of an illegal gambling business run by Wayne Joseph Nix, 46, of Newport Coast.

Puig called and sent text messages to Agent 1 with wagers on sporting events. Agent 1 then submitted the bets to the Nix gambling business on Puig’s behalf. By June 2019, Puig owed Nix’s gambling business $282,900 for sports gambling losses.

Agent 1 and another person identified in court papers as “Individual B” instructed Puig to make a check or wire transfer payable to a Nix gambling business client – identified in court papers as “Individual A” – to whom the business owed at least $200,000 in gambling winnings.

On June 25, 2019, Puig withdrew $200,000 from a Bank of America branch in Glendale then purchased two cashiers’ checks for $100,000 each that were made payable to Individual A. Puig did not immediately send the checks due to a dispute over the balance and access to Nix-controlled websites used to place sports bets. Nix refused to allow Puig access to the betting websites until Puig’s gambling debt was paid.

After Puig paid the $200,000, Nix provided Puig direct access to the betting websites. From July 4, 2019 to September 29, 2019, Puig placed 899 additional bets on tennis, football and basketball games through the websites.

In January 2022, federal investigators interviewed Puig in the presence of his lawyer. During the interview, despite being warned that lying to federal agents is a crime, Puig lied several times. During the interview, he falsely stated that he only knew Agent 1 from baseball and that he never discussed gambling with him, when in fact Puig discussed sports betting with Agent 1 hundreds of times on the telephone and via text message.

After agents showed Puig a copy of one of the cashiers’ checks he purchased on June 25, 2019, Puig falsely stated that he did not know the person who instructed him to send $200,000 in cashiers’ checks to Individual A. Puig also falsely stated that he had placed a bet online with an unknown person on an unknown website that resulted in a loss of $200,000.

In March 2022, Puig sent Individual B an audio message via WhatsApp in which he admitted to lying to federal agents during the interview two months earlier.

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. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 8, 2023.

Federal prosecutors today also filed a plea agreement for former MLB player Erik Kristian Hiljus, 49, of Panorama City, who agreed to plead guilty to two counts of subscribing to false tax returns and will face up to six years in federal prison upon entering his guilty plea. Hiljus was an agent for Nix’s illegal gambling business but did not work with Puig.

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and IRS Criminal Investigation are investigating this matter. The HSI agents are part of the El Camino Real Financial Crimes Task Force.

Assistant United States Attorneys Jeff Mitchell of the Major Frauds Section and Dan Boyle of the Asset Forfeiture and Recovery Section are prosecuting these cases.

16 Responses

  1. Justin

    It’s a shame to see this happen as Puig seemed like a very personable guy with a deep passion for the game. Loved the effort he displayed while in Cincy and want nothing but the best for him. But this here out of the article:

    “Under our system of justice, no one is above the law,” said United States Attorney Martin Estrada. “The integrity of our nation’s criminal justice system depends on people telling the truth, and those who fail to abide by this simple principle must face consequences.”

    Made me laugh out loud pretty hard. Wish it was true but alas it is not.

    • Doug Gray

      Big Ern is above the law. If you know you know.

      • Justin

        Love that movie and your right, Big Ern is definitely above the law

    • LDS

      Yeah, that’s hilarious but this is a baseball forum not a political one, thankfully

      • Justin

        I agree, i wasnt trying to be political though, it just made me laugh really good

  2. Votto4life

    Disappointing, but not all that surprising. I wonder if the Commissioner’s office will take any action? Although, I can’t imagine any MLB team would touch him again regardless.

  3. Harry Stoner

    Rose, Puig, Pham.

    We’re not talking the brightest bulbs on the Christmas tree.

    Rose’s lying got him in far deeper hot water than his original stupidity.

    Same with Altuve and Bregman lying on camera.

    Except they’ve got a couple WS rings to show for it.

    Cynicism is a losing proposition, though folks cling to it like a life preserver in complicated times.

    Which is most of the time.

    Just because some liars and crooks don’t get caught doesn’t mean that the ones who do get caught shouldn’t be punished.

    • Jon

      Don’t forget to add Bauer to that list of dim bulbs. And Chapman as well.

  4. JayTheRed

    Well now we know why nobody has been taking a flyer on Puig.

  5. Rednat

    2019 was an intriguing year for our reds. after a slow start they really played well in may. june and July. i felt it was the best the played in many years actually. I really thought they had something with Puig and Iglesias. 2 good fielders with speed and some good power. plus they were entertaining and actually fun to watch. Puig was on pace to compete for a 30/30 season and Iglesias reminded me a lot of Davey Concepcion. i was actually getting excited again to go down to gabp. i remember the july fourth game that year. we beat the brewers 2-1. puig hit a monster home run and Castillo was dominant on the mound and i said to myself, this is fun! we were with in striking distance of 1st place in the division, about 7 games back i think.

    then the trade deadline comes and Puig is gone for grumpy Trevor Bauer and they bring in this guy name Freddie Galvis who struck out all the time who took most of iglesias’ playing time away at short and august and september were pretty lousy for our reds. At that point i came to the conclusion that I really don’t know anything about 21st century baseball anymore or maybe reds management was just over thinking things. any way, just curious if anyone else feels the way i do about the 2019 season?

    • Jim Walker

      2019 was meant to be to 2020 what 2009 was to 2010. Dick Williams was putting his stamp on the team in 2019 and positioning it for what was supposed to come in 2020 if the pandemic hadn’t happened.

    • David

      Galvis was a step in the wrong direction. Why they gave up on Iglesias is beyond me.
      That was kind of a …..head scratching move.
      The Dick Williams era.
      21st Century baseball.
      Catch the Covid, er …fever.

      Gone, but ….well, we still have Moustakas. Lucky Reds.
      I get what Williams was TRYING to do, but it all went south. So you actually DO have to question his judgement, despite his good intentions. From a different perspective, you can also understand what Castellini and the ownership group might think.
      And that doesn’t mean I think Castellini was right, just that he thought Dick Williams (the younger) made too many mistakes with HIS money.

      Getting Trevor Bauer could have turned out to be a great move, if 2020 had been a full season. The Indians (er….Guardians now) knew that he was a problem in the clubhouse and on the team, despite his talent. They were glad to get rid of him.

  6. Jeffrey Oakley

    All this as places like Fanduel and oh yeah, the Reds become involved with “legal” betting. While this is just another example of Puig’s obsessive compulsive behavior (that seems to be a common trait among great athletes, see Rose and Jordan as two examples). I find it all very ironic.

    • Jim Walker

      Very true about legal betting. The commercials to get folks signed up jumped right in to replace the election commercials without missing a beat. Word out of Columbus is the Blue Jackets are also setting up a gaming parlor at Nationwide Arena. I haven’t found out yet if will be accessible from inside the building or only from “the street” like the setup is going to be at GABP. But my guess is neither place will try to block access to online wagering from inside their building.

  7. MK

    Still like the guy and the energy he brings.