Shohei Ohtani’s ex-interpreter makes court appearance over theft charge


Ippei Mizuhara, the former interpreter for Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani, made a court appearance Friday over the allegation that he stole more than $16 million from the baseball player to pay off his own gambling debts.

Mizuhara, who was temporarily detained by authorities after he turned himself in earlier in the day, was released on a $25,000 bond following the court procedure.

The prosecutors charged Mizuhara, 39, on Thursday with having transferred Ohtani’s money to an illegal bookmaker without the player’s knowledge or permission from November 2021 to January 2024.

Martin Estrada, U.S. attorney for the Central District of California, announced the charge against Mizuhara at a press conference, saying, “Mr. Ohtani is considered a victim in this case.”

Ippei Mizuhara’s lawyer (C) comes out of a federal district court in Los Angeles on April 12, 2024. Mizuhara, the former interpreter for Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani, was in court on charges that he stole more than $16 million from the baseball player to pay off his own gambling debts. (Kyodo)

 

According to the criminal complaint, Mizuhara began gambling with an illegal sports book in September 2021 and made around 19,000 bets in total, averaging nearly 25 per day, between December 2021 and January 2024.

He had a total net loss of some $40.68 million over the period, the complaint said.

The document revealed many messages between Mizuhara and the bookmaker, such as the former interpreter saying, “I’m terrible at this sport betting thing” in November 2022 and “Any chance I can get one last bump? This will be my last one for a while if I lose it” in June 2023.

It also included a November 2023 message from the bookmaker that shows his apparent frustration with Mizuhara for ignoring his calls: “I don’t know why you’re not returning my calls. I’m here in Newport Beach and I see (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?”

Ohtani, a two-way star in Japan, came to the United States to play for the Los Angeles Angels in the 2018 season. Mizuhara, who worked with Ohtani during his time with the Nippon Ham Fighters in Japanese pro ball, accompanied him in the move to Major League Baseball.

File photo shows Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani (R) and his interpreter Ippei Mizuhara in Glendale, Arizona, on March 5, 2024. (Kyodo) 

As a close confidant, Mizuhara helped Ohtani open an account at a bank in Arizona in 2018 as the player did not speak English, the U.S. Justice Department said.

Ohtani’s salary from playing professional baseball was deposited into the account. Later, Mizuhara allegedly changed the contact information on the player’s account to link it to his own phone number.

On Feb. 2, 2022, Mizuhara unsuccessfully tried to wire funds from the account to another bookmaker, telling a bank employee that he was Ohtani and the money was for a car loan. As a result, the bank froze online transactions for the account.

But the bank lifted the suspension after Mizuhara called and spoke to another employee the same day, answering security questions with Ohtani’s information, the complaint said.

Ohtani’s sports agent asked Mizuhara on multiple occasions about the account, but Mizuhara said it was “private” and Ohtani did not want anyone else to monitor it, according to the complaint, which noted that the agent said he had no reason not to believe Mizuhara.

Ohtani received income from a range of sources, but generally only had Mizuhara ask his financial team about the overall picture of his income rather than inquiring about specific accounts, it said.

It was not until on or around March 20, the day of the Dodgers’ MLB season opener in Seoul, that Ohtani learned during a one-on-one conversation that Mizuhara had access to the account, according to the complaint.

After the allegation came to light, the complaint showed, the first bookmaker messaged Mizuhara, “Obviously you didn’t steal from him. I understand it’s a cover job.” Mizuhara responded, “Technically I did steal from him. it’s all over for me.”


Related coverage:

Ohtani’s former interpreter charged with over $16 million bank fraud

Shohei Ohtani’s ex-interpreter negotiating guilty plea: report

Baseball: Shohei Ohtani says focus unchanged despite off-field issues






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