Ex-MLB Star Yasiel Puig Withdraws Agreement to Plead Guilty in Sports Betting Probe

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVNovember 30, 2022

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - APRIL 02: Outfielder Yasiel Puig #66 of the Kiwoom Heroes reacts in the top of the eighth inning during the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) League opening game between Kiwoom Heroes and Lotte Giants at Gocheok Skydome on April 02, 2022 in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

Former Major League Baseball player Yasiel Puig believes he is innocent and will no longer plea guilty to a charge of lying to federal investigators in a sports betting probe.

"I want to clear my name," Puig said in a statement on Wednesday, per Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. "I never should have agreed to plead guilty to a crime I did not commit."

This brings an element of risk, as he could face up to five years in prison if he is convicted at trial. By contrast, the plea agreement called for a fine of at least $55,000 and would have left him eligible for probation.

The government said Puig lost $282,900 on sports betting with an unnamed agent in the first half of 2019 and then made "899 bets on tennis, football, and basketball games" on an offshore website in the second half of that year.

There are no allegations he bet on baseball, but the government also said he lied when saying he never talked about betting with the unnamed agent.

Keri Axel, who is Puig's attorney, said the reason the former MLB player withdrew from the plea agreement was the emergence of "significant new evidence." While Axel didn't reveal what the evidence was, Shaikin noted she said in a previous court hearing that Puig may have been entrapped.

"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," Axel said when discussing the interview in which Puig allegedly lied to investigators.

Puig played in the major leagues from 2013 through 2019 for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland.

He was an All-Star in 2014 for the Dodgers and currently plays in the KBO League in South Korea.