Shohei Ohtanis ex-interpreter allegedly stole $16 million from Dodgers star: DOJ

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(LOS ANGELES, Calif.) — The former interpreter for Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani now faces federal charges over allegations he stole millions from MLB’s highest-paid player in a gambling scheme, the Department of Justice announced Thursday.

Ippei Mizuhara has been charged with bank fraud for allegedly stealing more than $16 million from Ohtani to “finance his voracious appetite for illegal sports betting,” United States Attorney Martin Estrada said during a press briefing.

Estrada claimed Mizuhara committed fraud on a “massive scale” to “plunder” Ohtani’s bank account to pay for his gambling debts.

Mizuhara had helped Ohtani, who did not speak or understand English, set up his bank account in 2018 in Arizona and “used that familiarity” to later steal the funds from Ohtani to help pay for illegal sports bets, the DOJ alleged. He is accused of wiring more than $16 million in unauthorized transfers from Ohtani’s checking account from November 2021 to January 2024, the DOJ said. He is also accused of impersonating Ohtani over the phone with the bank to approve wire transfers to the bookmakers, the DOJ said.

Estrada stressed that Ohtani is considered a victim in the case and has cooperated “fully and completely” in the investigation.

“There is no evidence to indicate that Mr. Ohtani authorized the over $16 million of transfers from his account to the bookmakers,” Estrada said.

Any winnings were deposited in Mizuhara’s own personal bank account, not any account owned by Ohtani, and the ex-interpreter allegedly admitted to a bookmaker to stealing from Ohtani, according to Estrada. Ohtani also provided his cellphone to investigators, who did not find any evidence to suggest that he was aware of or involved in the illegal gambling activity, the DOJ said.

“Our investigation has revealed that due to the position of trust that he occupied with Mr. Ohtani, Mr. Mizuhara had unique access to Mr. Ohtani’s finances,” Estrada said. “Mr. Mizuhara used and abused that position of trust in order to take advantage of Mr. Ohtani.”

Bank fraud carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, Estrada said.

Mizuhara is expected to appear in the U.S. District Court in downtown Los Angeles in the coming days. It is unclear if he has an attorney.

The federal investigation is being conducted by the Los Angeles offices of IRS Criminal Investigation and Homeland Security Investigations, the main investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The Dodgers announced they had fired the Japanese interpreter on March 20, after the gambling controversy surfaced. The team did not provide a specific reason for Mizuhara’s termination.

Ohtani addressed the scandal for the first time on March 25 during a press conference. In a prepared statement, Ohtani said through an interpreter, “I am very saddened and shocked that someone who I trusted has done this.”

“I never bet on baseball or any other sports,” Ohtani continued. “I never asked somebody to do that on my behalf and I have never went through a bookmaker to bet on sports.”

The 29-year-old pitching and hitting star, who signed a $700 million deal in the offseason to join the Dodgers, claimed he did not know about Mizuhara’s gambling until after a Dodgers game in Korea the prior week.

“Up until a couple days ago, I didn’t even know that this was happening,” he said at the time.

Mizuhara had worked with the Dodgers as Ohtani’s interpreter after serving in the same capacity with the Angels. Ohtani and Mizuhara’s relationship dates back to 2013, when Ohtani played for the Nippon-Ham Fighters of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball League and Mizuhara was an interpreter for the team.

Ohtani has been playing for the Dodgers throughout the scandal, batting .333 with three home runs and eight RBIs for National League-leading Los Angeles. He is not pitching this season as he recovers from elbow surgery.

MLB announced it was investigating the situation last month, two days after the Dodgers fired Mizuhara.

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