Ohtani's ex-interpreter to plead guilty of bank fraud in transfer of nearly $17M

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Wednesday, May 8, 2024
Shohei Ohtani's ex-interpreter agrees to plead guilty to bank fraud
Shohei Ohtani's former longtime interpreter has agreed to plead guilty to charges for illegally transferring almost $17 million from the Dodgers star's bank account.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Shohei Ohtani's former longtime interpreter has agreed to plead guilty to charges for illegally transferring almost $17 million from the Dodgers star's bank account - without permission - to pay off his own massive gambling debts incurred with an illegal bookmaking operation and for signing a false tax return.

In a statement released Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Justice said 39-year-old Ippei Mizuhara, of Newport Beach, has agreed to plead guilty to one count of bank fraud, which carries a statutory maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, and one count of subscribing to a false tax return, which carries a sentence of up to three years in prison.

The news release did not mention Ohtani by name, identifying him only as "a Major League Baseball player."

Mizuhara will enter his guilty plea in the coming weeks and is set to be arraigned May 14, prosecutors said.

"The extent of this defendant's deception and theft is massive," United States Attorney Martin Estrada said in a statement. "He took advantage of his position of trust to take advantage of Mr. Ohtani and fuel a dangerous gambling habit."

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.

Dodgers designated hitter Shohei Ohtani has been chosen as the National League Player of the Week, the MLB announced on Monday.

ESPN and the Los Angeles Times 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 agreed last month to undergo court-ordered gambling addiction treatment after federal prosecutors accused him of stealing millions from the Japanese baseball player.

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.

Thursday's announcement, at a packed news conference in downtown Los Angeles, ended weeks of speculation about Ippei Mizuhara's self-admitted gambling problems, the wide-ranging federal investigation and Shohei Ohtani's role in the scandal.

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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.