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Shohei Ohtani's interpreter charged with bank fraud in betting case

U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada said Ippei Mizuhara stole more than $16 million from Ohtani, a Los Angeles Dodgers star.
Shohei Ohtani's interpreter charged with bank fraud in betting case
Posted at 12:26 PM, Apr 11, 2024

The former longtime interpreter for Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani is being charged with federal bank fraud for crimes involving gambling debts and theft of millions of dollars from the Japanese sensation, federal authorities said Thursday.

U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada announced the charges Thursday.

Ippei Mizuhara served as Ohtani's interpreter after Ohtani came to the U.S. to play baseball. Estrada says Mizhuara "acted as Mr. Ohtani's de facto manager."

Estrada says Mizuhara helped Ohtani set up a bank account for Ohtani's baseball salary. Estrada says Mizuhara stole more than $16 million from Ohtani's bank accounts to pay for his own sports betting and lied to the bank to access the account.

"Due to the position of trust he occupied with Mr. Ohtanti" he was able to "use and abuse" that trust "in order to plunder Mr. Ohtani's bank account," Estrada said, also confirming that when Ippei would win on sports bets, he did not deposit the money into Ohtani's account.

"Mr. Mizuhara did all this to feed his insatiable appetite for illegal sports betting," Estrada said, adding the complaint alleges he committed fraud "on a massive scale."

SEE MORE: Ohtani 'beyond shocked' at allegations of gambling by his interpreter

Estrada says there is no evidence that Ohtani was aware of his interpreter's actions, adding that Ohtani has cooperated fully and completely with investigators.

"I want to emphasize this point: Mr. Ohtani is considered a victim in this case," he said.

Mizuhara is expected to appear in United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles for his initial appearance in the near future, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office press release.

An email seeking comment on the allegations against Mizuhara was sent to his attorney, Michael G. Freedman.

The maximum penalty for the bank fraud charge Mizuhara faces is 30 years in prison.

Mizuhara was abruptly fired by the team after the scandal surfaced last month, catalyzed by an IRS Criminal Investigation of an alleged illegal bookmaker. Major League Baseball opened a separate investigation.

Ohtani subsequently laid out a version of events that placed responsibility entirely on Mizuhara, who had given conflicting accounts of whether Ohtani had paid off Mizuhara's gambling debts.

Ohtani left the Los Angeles Angels in December to sign a record $700 million, 10-year contract with the Dodgers. Ohtani and Mizuhara had been daily companions since Ohtani joined the Angels in 2018.

Mizuhara told ESPN on March 19 that Ohtani paid his gambling debts at the interpreter's request, saying the bets were on international soccer, the NBA, the NFL and college football. But ESPN said Mizuhara changed his story the next day, saying Ohtani had no knowledge of the gambling debts and had not transferred any money to bookmakers.

SEE MORE: Is baseball star Shohei Ohtani a victim of theft, or is he in trouble?

On March 25, Ohtani told a Dodger Stadium press conference that he never bet on sports or knowingly paid any gambling debts accumulated by his interpreter.

"I am very saddened and shocked someone whom I trusted has done this," the Japanese star said through a new interpreter.

"Ippei has been stealing money from my account and has been telling lies," Ohtani said. "I never bet on sports or have willfully sent money to the bookmaker."

Ohtani said he first became aware of Mizuhara's gambling problem during a team meeting after a season-opening victory over the San Diego Padres in Seoul, South Korea.

The investigation moved at a quick speed, with the charges coming about three weeks after news of the scandal broke.

"We understood there was a significant amount of public interest in this case," Estrada said. "While we were able to work on this case rapidly, it was a very thorough investigation."

There has been no information about the status of baseball's separate investigation. MLB rules prohibit players and team employees from wagering — even legally — on baseball. They also ban betting on other sports with illegal or offshore bookmakers.

Ohtani earned around $40 million in salary from the Los Angeles Angels before becoming a free agent and getting his $700 million deal, although it's also expected he earns tens of millions at least in endorsements each year, too.


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