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California accountant engaged in illegal gambling operation pleads guilty after HSI-led investigation

Money LaunderingCalifornia accountant engaged in illegal gambling operation pleads guilty after HSI-led investigation

LOS ANGELES — An entertainment industry accountant pleaded guilty July 25 to a felony charge of lying to federal law enforcement officials about his role in laundering illicit proceeds from an illegal gambling operation. A former minor-league baseball player ran the operation, which also involved professional athletes.

William Eric Fulton, 59, of Agoura Hills, pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements.

According to his plea agreement, Fulton and his company provided bookkeeping, accounting and tax preparation services for Wayne Joseph Nix, 46, of Newport Coast, a former minor-league baseball player who ran an illegal bookmaking business for nearly 20 years.

Beginning no later than 2011, Fulton was aware that Nix ran an illegal gambling business. Nonetheless, he knowingly laundered Nix’s illegal gambling proceeds by continuing to transfer money between accounts, issue checks and wires to Nix’s gambling clients who won large bets, and helped Nix obtain bank loans to facilitate the gambling business. Between 2010 and 2020, Fulton charged Nix approximately $336,645 in professional fees for his financial services.

“Lying to federal law enforcement officials in an attempt to cover up criminal activity is a serious offense,” said HSI Los Angeles acting Special Agent in Charge Eddy Wang. “Securing a guilty plea, in this case, speaks to the professionalism and commitment of the El Camino Real Financial Crimes Task Force to hold accountable those engaged in illicit financial crimes.”

Fulton also admitted in his plea agreement that on three separate occasions from March 2011 to October 2019, he provided no-cost personal loans to Nix totaling $1.25 million, which allowed Nix to pay his gambling clients when Nix needed rapid access to funds.

Fulton also placed personal bets with Nix via the Sand Island Sports website. On one day, Fulton placed 14 bets, including three on a professional match of one of his company’s clients. Fulton also referred at least one of his company’s clients to Nix for the purposes of illegal gambling.

During an October 2021 interview with federal law enforcement officials about the Nix gambling business, Fulton falsely denied all knowledge of Nix’s involvement in sports gambling, falsely claimed to have had no knowledge that Nix was a bookmaker until learning law enforcement had searched Nix’s home in February 2020, and repeatedly made the false assertion that he had never placed a bet with Nix.

U.S. District Judge Dolly M. Gee scheduled a Nov. 29 sentencing hearing, at which time Fulton will face a statutory maximum sentence of five years in federal prison. He has agreed to pay a fine of at least $673,290.

Nix pleaded guilty in April 2022 to one count of conspiracy to operate an illegal gambling business and one count of subscribing to a false tax return. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 6, 2024.

Nix’s longtime partner in the gambling operation — Edon Yoshida Kagasoff, 45, of Lake Forest — pleaded guilty in April 2022 to one count of conspiracy to operate an illegal gambling business. Kagasoff was sentenced on July 5 to six months of probation, fined $1,000, and ordered to forfeit $3,164,563 in ill-gotten gains.

Former Major League Baseball player Yasiel Puig Valdés, 32, who allegedly lied to federal law enforcement investigating Nix’s illegal gambling operation, is charged with obstruction of justice and making false statements. His trial is scheduled for Jan. 16, 2024.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeff Mitchell of the Major Frauds Section and Dan Boyle of the Environmental Crimes and Consumer Protection Section are prosecuting this case.

To report financial crimes, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year, call 787-729-6969.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees is comprised of more than 6,000 special agents stationed in 237 U.S. cities and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents the largest DHS investigative law enforcement presence overseas and one of the largest in U.S. law enforcement.

Learn more about HSI Los Angeles’ mission by following @HSILosAngeles on Twitter.

Story from www.ice.gov

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity.

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