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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Former Ohtani Interpreter Pleading Guilty to Bank Fraud, False Tax Return

  • The baseball star’s former interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, admitted to secretly stealing nearly $17 million from the player.
  • Mizuhara will face up to 33 years in federal prison for his crimes.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Shohei Ohtani’s former interpreter is pleading guilty to two charges related to his staggering thefts from the ballplayer, the federal government announced.

Ippei Mizuhara is pleading guilty to bank fraud and filing a false tax return, the Justice Department said Wednesday. Federal investigators had previously detailed how Mizuhara stole nearly $17 million from Ohtani to feed his voracious gambling habit.

He faces up to 33 years in federal prison: up to 30 for the bank fraud charge and up to three for the tax return charge. He is expected to formally plead guilty “in the coming weeks” and has an arraignment set for May 14. His total maximum sentence also includes a five-year period of supervised release, a $1,250,000 fine, and a $200 mandatory special assessment, according to the plea agreement.

“The extent of this defendant’s deception and theft is massive,” U.S. Attorney E. Martin Estrada said in a statement. “He took advantage of his position of trust to take advantage of Mr. Ohtani and fuel a dangerous gambling habit.”

According to the plea agreement, Mizuhara started placing sports bets through an illegal bookie in September 2021. Mizuhara’s losses from betting began to mount, and he soon found himself “indebted to the bookmaker.” Starting in November ’21 and running through March of this year, Mizuhara impersonated Ohtani 24 times and stole millions out of Ohtani’s bank account via numerous wire transfers.

“Mr. Mizuhara exploited his relationship with Mr. Ohtani to bankroll his own irresponsibility,” Tyler Hatcher, special agent in charge of the Los Angeles Field Office’s IRS criminal investigation division, said in a statement.

Mizuhara filed a 2022 tax return that he admitted was false, reporting to the IRS that his total taxable income was $136,865, but failing to include additional income of $4.1 million, according to his plea agreement. Mizuhara then admitted that he actually owes roughly $1,149,400 in additional taxes as well as interest and penalties.

As part of the plea deal, Mizuhara “will be required to pay full restitution to” Ohtani. The nearly $17 million he stole from the Dodgers star covered less than half of the $41 million he found himself in the hole to the bookmaker, Mathew Bowyer. Bowyer has not yet been charged with a crime but is being investigated by federal authorities.

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