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Shohei Ohtani’s ex-interpreter allegedly stole $16 million from Dodgers star: DOJ

Former Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani now faces federal charges over allegations he stole millions from MLB’s highest-paid player in gambling scheme , the Ministry of Justice announced Thursday.

Ippei Mizuhara was charged with bank fraud for allegedly stealing more than $16 million from Ohtani to “fund his voracious appetite for illegal sports betting,” U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada said during a press briefing.

Estrada claimed Mizuhara committed “large-scale” fraud to “loot” Ohtani’s bank account.

Mizuhara helped Ohtani open his bank accounts and “used that familiarity” to steal Ohtani’s funds to help pay for illegal sports bets, the DOJ alleged. He is also accused of impersonating Ohtani on the phone with the bank to approve wire transfers to the bookmakers, the DOJ said.

Shohei Ohtani #17 of the Los Angeles Dodgers and performer Ippei Mizuhara arrive at a game against the Chicago White Sox at Camelback Ranch on February 27, 2024 in Glendale, Arizona.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

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

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

All winnings were deposited into Mizuhara’s personal bank account, not an account belonging to Ohtani, and the ex-performer allegedly admitted to a bookie that he stole from Ohtani, according to Estrada. Ohtani also provided his cell phone to investigators, who found no evidence to suggest he was aware of or involved in the illegal gambling activity, the DOJ said.

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

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

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

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

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

“I have never bet on baseball or any other sport,” Ohtani continued. “I have never asked anyone to do this on my behalf and I have never used a bookmaker to bet on sports.”

The 29-year-old star pitcher and hitter, who signed a $700 million contract in the offseason to join the Dodgers, said he didn’t know about Mizuhara’s play until after a Dodgers game. Dodgers in Korea the week before.

“Until a few days ago, I didn’t even know this was happening,” he said at the time.

Mizuhara had worked with the Dodgers as Ohtani’s interpreter after holding the same position 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 a translator for the team.

Ohtani played for the Dodgers throughout the scandal, batting .333 with three homers and eight RBIs for National League-leading Los Angeles. He is not pitching this season while recovering from elbow surgery.

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

ABC News

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