Former major league outfielder Yasiel Puig pled guilty to lying to federal agents during an investigation into an illegal gambling operation, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Central District of California. The official charge, making false statements, is a felony that can carry a sentence of up to five years in federal prison.
According to the U.S. Attorney, Puig has agreed to pay a fine of at least $55K as part of a plea agreement initially filed in August. He’s expected to make a court appearance tomorrow; it isn’t clear whether he’ll be formally sentenced at that point, nor did the U.S. Attorney announce whether Puig is expected to serve any prison time.
The press release states that Puig agreed to place hundreds of bets in an illicit gambling ring between May and September 2019. The U.S. Attorney indicates that Puig — then a member of the Reds and Indians — bet on football, tennis and basketball but does not suggest he ever placed a bet on baseball. The criminal charge stemmed not from the bets themselves but a meeting with federal investigators this past January, in which Puig told agents he’d never discussed gambling with an anonymous member of the operation. The press release indicates Puig then told a second individual in March that he’d lied to federal investigators during the January interview; agents evidently obtained that message at some point in recent months.
Puig has not played in the majors since that 2019 season. The former Dodgers All-Star sat out the 2020 campaign after a positive COVID-19 test derailed a free agent deal with the Braves. The following offseason, reports emerged he was facing a civil suit for an alleged 2018 sexual assault. Puig settled that action, and eventually signed with the Kiwoom Heroes of the Korea Baseball Organization for the 2022 season. Last December, the Washington Post reported Puig had settled two additional civil actions related to sexual assault allegations back in 2017.
The 31-year-old outfielder hit .277/.368/.474 through 547 plate appearances with the Heroes this year. He has previously maintained he hopes to return to Major League Baseball, but it’s very difficult to envision him getting another MLB opportunity at this point. His KBO job may also be in jeopardy. Heroes general manager Young-wook Goh indicated this evening he’d been unaware of the gambling investigation (via reporter Daniel Kim). Goh suggested the team would look into the matter further before making any final decisions but implied they’d be unlikely to re-sign Puig based on this news.