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Yasiel Puig reverses course, pleads not guilty to lying in illegal gambling probe

Yasiel Puig has changed his mind and is pleading not guilty to lying to federal authorities in their investigation of an illegal gambling ring.

The former MLB star said on Wednesday that he wants to clear his name after initially agreeing to plead guilty to one count of making false statements when federal prosecutors interviewed him via Zoom in January.

“I never should have agreed to plead guilty to a crime I did not commit,” the 31-year-old former All-Star outfielder said in a statement.

Yasiel Puig (66) of the Kiwoom Heroes makes his way to first base during a game in the Korean Baseball Organization League in April 2022.
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Puig’s attorney, Keri Axel, said that “significant” new evidence has come to light, prompting a change in her client’s plea.

“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,” she said. “We have reviewed the evidence, including significant new information, and have serious concerns about the allegations made against Yasiel.”

Earlier this week, Puig’s agent, Lisette Carnet of Leona Sports Agency, also said he came to the interview “feeling rushed, unprepared, without criminal counsel with him, and also lacked his own interpreter.” 

In the August plea agreement, Puig acknowledged that he wracked up more than $280,000 in losses betting on tennis, football and basketball games through a third party who worked for an illegal gambling outfit operated by Wayne Nix, a former minor league baseball player. According to authorities, Puig placed at least 900 bets on betting websites run by Nix. Puig admitted that he lied to federal investigators looking into the business, denying he had placed the bets through the organization.

Nix pleaded guilty in April to conspiracy to operate an illegal sports gambling business and filing a false tax return. Prosecutors alleged Nix ran the operation for two decades and it included current and former professional athletes as clients or employees.

Yasiel Puig, with the Dodgers in 2018.
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Puig, who spent seven years in the majors, including his first six with the Dodgers, hit .277 for his career with 132 home runs and 415 RBIs. He also played for the Reds and Indians in 2019 before becoming a free agent and joining the Mexican League last year. In December of last year, he signed a one-year, $1 million contact with South Korea’s Kiwoom Heroes.

If convicted, Puig faces up to five years in prison.

“All my life’s I been told to be quiet and do what I was told,” Puig tweeted on Wednesday. “No mores.”