A former minor league pitcher ran a major league illegal sports betting operation in California that used other former pro athletes to take bets and took wagers from players still in the game, federal prosecutors said Thursday.
Wayne Nix, who threw for Oakland Athletics farm teams, used his connections to recruit three former Major League Baseball players and a former pro football player as fellow bookies, prosecutors said.
The MLB began looking into the matter when it learned of it Thursday, but was unaware of any of those involved other than Nix, a spokesman said.
Court records offered no names of the players who worked for Nix or those who placed bets with his business, but they provide a glimpse of the kind of money being wagered, earned and lost.
A professional football player paid Nix $245,000 for gambling losses in 2016. An MLB coach paid $4,000 in losses that same year. It was not disclosed if either bet on their own games or their own sports.
MLB prohibits players from betting on baseball or gambling illegally on sports. They can bet on other sports if it’s legal. The National Football League policy bars all personnel from betting on football games.
A Los Angeles check cashing business that has agreed to plead guilty to failing to prevent money laundering in the scheme cashed over $18 million in checks from two single bettors, prosecutors said.
One client wagered $5 million on the Super Bowl but it was not revealed if that gambit paid off.
Sports betting is legal in 30 states, but not in California. However, voters will have a chance to legalize it at the polls in November.
Nix, 45, has agreed to plead guilty to conspiring to run an illegal gambling operation and faces up to eight years in prison. He also admitted he failed to report $1.4 million in income in 2017 and 2018. He has agreed to pay back taxes and interest of $1.25 million and forfeit $1.3 million seized from bank accounts.
Nix began the sports bookmaking business about 20 years ago after his six-year minor league career — with stops in Arizona, Texas and California — ended, prosecutors said.
His client list was created from contacts he had made in the sports world and included current and former pro athletes. The agents he hired helped expand that clientele.
The operation eventually began using a Costa Rican business, Sand Island Sports, to create accounts where bets could be placed and tracked and credit limits set, prosecutors said. Bets were placed online or through a call center, though Nix paid winners and kept most of the money from losing bets.
Those who exceeded credit limits were shut off, though exceptions were made, according to court documents.
A sports broadcaster’s account was reactivated in February 2019 after he told Nix he was refinancing his home mortgage to pay off his gambling debts.
In September 2019, Nix increased the credit limit to a baseball player with debts so he could make additional bets.
In November, 2019, Nix’s partner, Edon Kagasoff, told a business manager for a professional basketball player that he would increase the maximum wager he could place to $25,000 per NBA game.
Kagasoff, 44, faces the same conspiracy charge as Nix. He also agreed to plead guilty and forfeit over $3 million in funds seized from his home and bank accounts.