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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

A Decade-Long Timeline of the Shohei Ohtani–Ippei Mizuhara Saga

  • The Dodgers’ star was unaware Mizuhara was stealing from his bank account. 
  • Ohtani’s story to the press aligns with federal findings.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The drama around Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani appears to be coming to an end. On Thursday, the Department of Justice filed a criminal complaint against Ippei Mizuhara, Ohtani’s longtime interpreter, and charged him with bank fraud related to an alleged theft of $16 million from his friend.

How did we get here? Below is a decade-long timeline of the Ohtani-Mizuhara relationship and Mizuhara’s descent into an apparently serious gambling problem. The texts and interactions with illegal bookmakers are as reproduced and alleged by the federal complaint; Mizuhara has not been convicted of any crime.

2013: Ohtani and Mizuhara meet while the former is playing baseball in Japan. Ohtani is just 18. 

Nov. 21, 2017: MLB and Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball come to a posting agreement for Ohtani, allowing him to play in the United States. 

Dec. 9, 2017: Ohtani signs with the Angels, spurning the Yankees and Dodgers.

March 2018: The bank account for Ohtani to have his Angels salary deposited in and which Mizuhara would use for his bets is opened.

Sept. 8, 2021: Mizuhara starts betting with Mathew Bowyer’s Orange County sportsbook through a mutual associate. Sports gambling was and remains illegal in the state of California; prosecutors say Mizuhara never bet on baseball, and there is no evidence that Ohtani ever gambled on sports, legally or illegally.

Nov. 10, 2021: Mizuhara wires $40,000, apparently of his own money, to Bowyer for the first time.

Nov. 19, 2021: Shohei Ohtani wins his first MVP award with the Angels. 

Dec. 8, 2021: Mizuhara wires $50,000 to Bowyer. 

Jan. 2, 2022: Bowyer loans Mizuhara $50,000 to reload his account after he “lost it all.” 

Feb. 2, 2022: Mizuhara calls Ohtani’s bank and impersonates him and states he’s trying to wire funds to Bowyer’s associate for a car loan. The bank doesn’t buy it and freezes online transactions for Ohtani’s account. Mizuhara is able to unfreeze the account later in the day after correctly answering security questions from a different bank employee while posing as Ohtani.

Feb. 4, 2022: Mizuhara wires Bowyer $300,000 through an associate. 

Feb. 28, 2022: After previously interacting through a third party, Bowyer directly contacts Mizuhara to ask for payment. “Hi [Mizuhara]. I hope u had a great weekend. Other wire still hasn’t been received. Can u just wire the 200(?)” Bowyer gives Mizuhara an account number to wire through. 

Apr. 27 to June 27, 2022: Mizuhara wires $1.2 million from Ohtani’s account to Bowyer. 

May 16, 2023: Mizuhara contacts Bowyer over another payment, this one seeming to indicate a debt of a million. “I sent out 500 just now. I tried 1000 but it won’t let me for some reason. . . . I will send another 500 tomorrow or the day after.”

May 20, 2023: Bowyer messaged Mizuhara about giving him an increased credit limit: “I know you’ve been on a bad run. I don’t mind bumping u, I just want to verify that you can send at least 2M on June 1.”

Nov. 12, 2023: Bowyer, who has been unable to contact Mizuhara, messages him that he’s in Newport Beach and has found Ohtani walking his dog. “I’m just gonna go up and talk to him and ask how I can get in touch with you since you’re not responding?” Bowyer texted Mizuhara. “Please call me back immediately.”

Nov. 16, 2023: Ohtani wins his second unanimous MVP. 

Dec. 11, 2023: Ohtani signs a 10-year, $700 million contract with the Dodgers with $680 million deferred for 10 years. 

Dec. 15, 2023: Bowyer texts Mizuhara over unpaid gambling debts and is growing impatient. 

“I know ur busy but u Need to show some respect. I put my neck out here. Call me by Tonight. I don’t care what time or how late it is,” Bowyer texted. 

Mizuhara responds: “I’m so sorry bro . . . I really don’t mean to disrespect you at all I promise . . . it’s just been super super busy . . . and I’ve got other issues on the side going on too. . . everything has just been really really tough recently. I don’t think you ever gave me the new [Bank A] account info. . . could I please get that? Imma try to send something tomorrow.” 

Bowyer sends Mizuhara bank account information. 

Jan. 6, 2024: Bowyer and Mizuhara have another tense exchange over unpaid debts. 

“you’re putting me in a position where this is going to get out of control. If I don’t hear from you by the end of the day today it’s gonna be out of my hands,” Bowyer messaged. 

“My bad man. . . . I just got back from Japan two days ago and I’m leaving tomorrow again,” Mizuhara replied. “. . . I’ll be back in mid January. To be honest with you, I’m really struggling right now and I need some time before I start to make payments.”

Jan. 8, 2024: Starting on Dec. 15, 2023, and ending on this date, more than $1 million is wired from Ohtani’s account to Bowyer’s. It would be the final time Ohtani’s account wired money to the bookie. 

March 17, 2024: Mizuhara texted Bowyer, “Thank you for the call earlier. . . . Do you think there is any way to find out the details of the article that’s coming out on LA Times?”

Bowyer replied, “Hey bud, of course Ty for calling me. I have no idea what this idiot is printing or trying to say. I’ve never spoke to him and wasn’t willing to talk to him although he tried[.] And all my attorney did was give him those facts I told you and told him the rest she won’t talk about and can’t confirm or deny anything. He did say his source was the FBI but I don’t even know if that’s true.”

March 20, 2024: Mizuhara addresses the Dodgers’ locker room in Seoul about his gambling problem—in English. Ohtani, who is still limited in the language, “was able to understand there was an issue regarding Mizuhara,” according to the complaint. The two speak in private and Ohtani learns what has been happening. 

Back in the States, the Los Angeles Times reports Ohtani’s name has surfaced in a federal investigation of Bowyer. Ohtani’s representatives accuse Mizuhara of committing “massive theft” against their client after Mizuhara initially said Ohtani knowingly transferred the funds over to him. Reports indicate wire transfers of $4.5 million were made in Ohtani’s name to Bowyer. The Dodgers fire Mizuhara. 

Mizuhara texted Bowyer, “Have you seen the reports?”

Bowyer replied, “Yes, but that’s all bulls***. Obviously you didn’t steal from him. I understand it’s a cover job I totally get it.”

“Technically I did steal from him,” Mizuhara said. “it’s all over for me.”

March 21, 2024: The Dodgers-Padres season-opening series in Seoul, South Korea, concludes. 

March 22, 2024: Major League Baseball announces it is opening an investigation into the matter. 

March 24, 2024: Ohtani makes his Dodger Stadium debut in a win over the Angels. 

March 27, 2024: Ohtani addresses the media, without taking questions, and said he never bet on baseball and said he was unaware of the situation until being told of it on March 19, when the Dodgers were preparing to open their season in Seoul. He said he fully plans to cooperate with the investigation. 

April 2–3, 2024: Ohtani gets interviewed by federal investigators. 

April 11, 2024: Federal prosecutors charge Mizuhara with bank fraud for stealing more than $16 million from Ohtani to pay off gambling debts from an illegal bookie. The investigation corroborates Ohtani’s story with the press. 

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