May 17th, 2024

Ippei Mizuhara, ex-interpreter for baseball star Shohei Ohtani, pleads guilty in sports betting case


By The Associated Press on May 8, 2024.

LOS ANGELES (AP) – The former interpreter for Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani pleaded guilty to bank and tax fraud Wednesday in a sports betting case where prosecutors allege he stole $16 million from the Japanese baseball player to pay off debts.

The scandal surrounding Ippei Mizuhara shocked baseball fans from the U.S. to Japan when the news broke in March. He was initially charged with one count of bank fraud, which carries a potential 30-year prison sentence.

Mizuhara exploited his personal and professional relationship with Ohtani to plunder millions from the two-way player’s account for years, at times impersonating Ohtani to bankers, prosecutors said. Mizuhara’s winning bets totaled over $142 million, which he deposited in his own bank account and not Ohtani’s. But his losing bets were around $183 million, a net loss of nearly $41 million. He did not wager on baseball.

There was no evidence that Ohtani was involved in or aware of Mizuhara’s gambling, and the player is cooperating with investigators, authorities said.

The Los Angeles Times and ESPN broke the news of the prosecution in late March, prompting the Dodgers to fire the interpreter and MLB to open its own investigation.

MLB rules prohibit players and team employees from wagering on baseball, even legally. MLB also bans betting on other sports with illegal or offshore bookmakers.

Mizuhara has been free on an unsecured $25,000 bond, colloquially known as a signature bond, meaning he did not have to put up any cash or collateral to be freed. If he violates the bond conditions – which include a requirement to undergo gambling addiction treatment – he will be on the hook for $25,000.

Ohtani has sought to focus on the field as the case winds through the courts. Hours after his ex-interpreter first appeared in court in April, he hit his 175th home run in MLB, tying Hideki Matsui for the most by a Japan-born player, during the Dodgers’ 8-7 loss to the San Diego Padres in 11 innings.

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