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Ex-MLB star Yasiel Puig pleads guilty to lying to feds in gambling probe

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Yasiel Puig played for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Guardians during his seven-year MLB career. File Photo by Aaron Josefczyk/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/384bf2e99336d9e0de426d8972f49c70/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Yasiel Puig played for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Guardians during his seven-year MLB career. File Photo by Aaron Josefczyk/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 15 (UPI) -- Former MLB star Yasiel Puig agreed to plead guilty to a felony charge for lying to federal agents investigating an illegal gambling operation, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California announced.

Puig agreed to plead guilty to one count of making false statements, authorities said Monday. That crime carries a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison.

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Puig lied to federal law enforcement officials about bets on sporting events he placed with the illegal gambling operation, according to court documents unsealed by the Department of Justice.

Puig agreed to pay a fine of at least $55,000. He also agreed to an initial appearance Tuesday in U.S. District Court. The seven-year MLB veteran and 2014 All-Star currently plays baseball in South Korea.

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Authorities said that Puig started placing bets on sporting events in May 2019 through a third party (identified as Agent 1), who worked for an illegal gambling operation headed by Wayne Nix, a former minor league player.

About a month later, Puig owed $282,900 to Nix's business. He paid off $200,000 of his losses and went on to place an additional 899 bets on tennis, football and basketball games from July 4 to Sept. 29, 2019.

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Monday's release did not mention any bets Puig placed on baseball. The former MLB outfielder played for the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Guardians in 2019. He spent the first six years of his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

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Federal investigators interviews Puig in January and determined that he lied "several times." He falsely stated that he only knew Agent 1 through baseball and he "never discussed gambling with him."

Authorities determined Puig discussed sports betting with Agent 1 "hundreds of times" on the phone and through text messages.

Agents also determined Puig lied about his involvement in the operation and communication with other individuals on multiple occasions.

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Nix pleaded guilty April 11 to one count of conspiracy to operate an illegal sports gambling business. He also pleaded guilty to one count of filing a false tax return. He is set for a sentencing hearing March 8.

Puig, 31, signed a one-year, $1 million contract in December with the Kiwoom Heroes of the Korean Baseball Organization. He earned more than $50 million over his MLB career.

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