LOS ANGELES – An entertainment industry accountant pleaded guilty today to a felony charge for lying to federal law enforcement officials about his role in laundering illicit proceeds from an illegal gambling operation run by a former minor-league baseball player and which 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 for nearly 20 years ran an illegal bookmaking business.
Beginning no later than 2011, Fulton was aware that Nix ran an illegal gambling business. Nonetheless, Fulton knowingly laundered Nix’s illegal gambling proceeds by continuing to provide financial services to Nix and providing access to the financial system. Specifically, Fulton continued 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.
Fulton also admitted in his plea agreement that on three separate occasions from March 2011 to October 2019 he provided personal loans to Nix totaling $1.25 million, which allowed Nix to pay his gambling clients when Nix needed rapid access to funds, which Fulton agreed to provide at no cost to Nix.
In addition, Fulton placed personal bets with Nix via the Sand Island Sports website. On one day, Fulton placed 14 bets, including three bets he made 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 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.
United States District Judge Dolly M. Gee scheduled a November 29 sentencing hearing, at which time Fulton will face a statutory maximum sentence of five years in federal prison. Fulton has agreed to pay a fine of no less than $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, was fined $1,000, and was 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 January 16, 2024.
An indictment is merely an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Homeland Security Investigations and IRS Criminal Investigation are conducting the ongoing investigation in this matter. The HSI agents are part of the El Camino Real Financial Crimes Task Force.
Assistant United States Attorneys Jeff Mitchell of the Major Frauds Section and Dan Boyle of the Environmental Crimes and Consumer Protection Section are prosecuting this case.