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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Shohei Ohtani’s Interpreter Reportedly Pleading Guilty, May Have Lost More Than $4.5 Million

  • The baseball superstar had vigorously denied knowledge of any gambling.
  • ‘The New York Times’ and ‘TMZ’ reported Wednesday night that Ippei Mizuhara was set to plead guilty to federal charges.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Shohei Ohtani’s longtime interpreter and confidant, Ippei Mizuhara, is reportedly set to plead guilty to new charges related to the gambling scandal that shook baseball last month. 

The New York Times and TMZ reported late Wednesday that Mizuhara, whose whereabouts have been publicly unknown since the nebulous gambling scandal broke, is negotiating a guilty plea with federal prosecutors over allegations that he stole millions from the baseball superstar to cover his own gambling debts.

It’s unclear which charges Mizuhara is pleading to, or which authorities are charging him, but the Times reported that the IRS, Department of Homeland Security, and U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California had been investigating the case.

The story appeared baffling when it first broke, with Ohtani’s team initially supporting Mizuhara’s claim that Ohtani knowingly covered Mizuhara’s enormous debts to an illegal bookmaking operation in Orange County, Calif. But Ohtani’s legal and communications teams quickly pivoted to a story wherein Mizuhara stole from and lied to the Dodger without his knowledge or consent. 

Ohtani eventually spoke to a media throng in Los Angeles—in Japanese, with a replacement for Mizuhara translating to American media—and adamantly denied any knowledge of Mizuhara’s betting.

Sports gambling is legal in much of the United States but not in California, where Mizuhara appears to have been making his wagers.

The previously unreported federal case appears to support Ohtani’s version of events. ESPN reported in March that wire transfers of at least $4.5 million were made in Ohtani’s name to the illegal bookmaker Mathew Bowyer. The Times reported Wednesday night that “Mizuhara may have stolen more money from Ohtani than the $4.5 million he was initially accused of pilfering” and that prosecutors believe “Mizuhara was able to change the settings on Ohtani’s bank account so Ohtani would not receive alerts and confirmations about transactions.”

TMZ put it in even starker terms, saying that federal investigators have decided that “Ohtani was completely in the dark over the gambling debt, and Mizuhara embezzled from one of Ohtani’s accounts without the pitcher’s knowledge.”

That tracks with the version of events Ohtani eventually landed on. “Ippei has been stealing money from my account and has told lies,” he told the media in a translated statement March 25. “I do want to make it clear that I never bet on sports or have willfully sent money to the bookmaker,” he added.

Ohtani blamed Mizuhara’s integral role as a translator and go-between for the initial confusion, saying that Mizuhara lied to him and his representation as reporters started digging into the story.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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