Ex-Ohtani interpreter to reportedly plead guilty to federal charges

Shohei Ohtani Interpreter Plead Guilty
Image: Conor P. Fitzgerald / Shutterstock

The former interpreter of MLB superstar Shohei Ohtani is in negotiations to plead guilty following allegations of stealing million to wager on sports, according to the New York Times.

Ippei Mizuhara is expected to plead guilty to federal charges after allegedly participating in an illegal gambling operation run by former bookie Matthew Bowyer. Mizuhara, who was subsequently fired by the Los Angeles Dodgers, allegedly siphoned at least $16 million from Ohtani’s bank account to Bowyer to cover gambling losses.

According to a criminal complaint, Mizuhara is alleged to have changed the alert and confirmation settings of Ohtani’s bank account to place roughly 19,000 wagers with the illegal sportsbook. Mizuhara accumulated $40 million in losses with the operation in nearly three years with an average wager amount of $12,800. The former interpreter is also alleged to have falsely identified as Ohtani when speaking with banks to transfer cash.

Ohtani, who signed a record 10-year, $700 million contract with the Dodgers last December, has denied any wrongdoing following the allegations against Mizuhara.

“I’ve never bet on baseball or any other sports or asked someone to do it on my behalf,” said Ohtani during a team press conference last month. “I’ve never asked a bookmaker to do it on my behalf. Up until a few days ago, I didn’t know this was happening. In conclusion, Ippei has been stealing money from my account and has told lies.”

Mizuhara has hired former federal prosecutor Michael Freedman amid the federal charges. He is expected to plead guilty to gain leniency from prosecutors and judges.

MLB initiates investigation and offers response

Last month, MLB announced that its Department of Investigations would begin a formal probe on the matter as sports leagues across the world face illicit gambling issues. Despite Ohtani’s name being included in bank transfers with Bowyer, the three-time All-Star and reigning American League MVP is expected to avoid any penalty from the league.

MLB issued a statement following the release of the criminal complaint that detail Mizuhara’s alleged wagering.

“We are aware of the charges filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office against Mr. Mizuhara for bank fraud after a thorough federal investigation,” said the league. “According to that investigation, Shohei Ohtani is considered a victim of fraud and there is no evidence that he authorized betting with an illegal bookmaker. Further, the investigation did not find any betting on baseball by Mr. Mizuhara. Given the information disclosed today, and other information we have already collected, we will wait until resolution of the criminal proceeding to determine whether further investigation is warranted.”

Despite being shrouded in controversy, Ohtani is off to a strong start as a new member of the Dodgers. The 29-year-old has a .333 batting average with eight RBIs and three home runs in 15 games.