Former Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig, who last year withdrew from an agreement to plead guilty to lying to federal authorities in a sports gambling investigation, is now facing new charges in the case.
Puig, 32, is scheduled to be arraigned Friday in downtown Los Angeles on two counts of making false statements and one count of obstruction of justice, according to a federal case docket.
In November, the Cuban-born baseball player had agreed to plead guilty to one count of making false statements and agreed to pay a fine of at least $55,000. He would have been eligible for probation under the agreement.
But weeks later, Puig withdrew from the plea deal.
“I want to clear my name,” Puig said in a Nov. 30 statement. “I never should have agreed to plead guilty to a crime I did not commit.”
Federal authorities had been investigating an illegal sports gambling operation run by Wayne Nix, a former minor-league baseball player who lives in Newport Beach, when Puig allegedly lied in interviews about his involvement, according to the initial plea agreement.
According to federal prosecutors, Puig lied when he told investigators in a Jan. 27, 2022, interview that he had never discussed betting with an unnamed agent working for Nix, described in the plea deal only as “a former collegiate baseball player and private baseball coach.” In fact, the government alleges, Puig had incurred debt of more than $280,000 on sports bets placed with that agent in the first half of 2019.
After paying off part of the debt, the government alleges, Puig made “899 bets on tennis, football, and basketball games” through an offshore website connected to Nix’s ring.
There is no evidence in the plea agreement that Puig, who played for the Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians in his Major League Baseball career, bet on baseball.
Puig’s attorney, Keri Axel, said in a November statement that “significant new evidence” had prompted the withdrawal from the plea agreement. Axel did not say in the statement what that new evidence might be, and she told The Times through a spokesman: “We are prepared to publicly share that information in the appropriate forum and at the appropriate time.”
However, in a court hearing earlier that month, she suggested that messages left for Puig by the unnamed agent and his associate raised the possibility that Puig might have been entrapped.
Of the Zoom interview in which Puig is alleged to have lied to investigators, Axel said: “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.”
Times staff writer Bill Shaikin contributed to this report.