Monday, May 20, 2024

Shohei Ohtani interpreter allegedly stole $16M from MLB star, lost $40M gambling: What to know

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Shohei Ohtani’s former interpreter Ippei Mizuhara appeared in court Friday, charged with felony bank fraud for allegedly stealing more than $16 million from the baseball star.

“I’m very grateful for the Department of Justice’s investigation,” Ohtani told the Los Angeles Times on Friday. “For me personally, this marks a break from this, and I’d like to focus on baseball.”

The saga had hung over the first weeks of the MLB season since the 39-year-old Mizuhara was fired by the Los Angeles Dodgers during their opening series in Seoul, South Korea. Ohtani signed with them in the offseason as a free agent after playing for the LA Angels from 2018 to 2023.

Mizuhara’s attorney issued a statement Friday saying his client “wishes to apologize to Mr. Ohtani, the Dodgers, Major League Baseball and his family.”

The 36-page federal criminal complaint alleges that Mizuhara embezzled more than $16 million through a bank account of Ohtani’s that he had helped set up. Mizuhara had been Ohtani’s interpreter and “de facto manager” since he came to play in America in 2018.

Here’s what to know about the charges against Ohtani’s former interpreter:

What did Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter do?

Federal prosecutors allege that Mizuhara embezzled more than $16 million from a bank account that he had accompanied Ohtani to set up. Mizuhara served as the translator at the bank in Arizona – where Angels spring training was based – creating the account that Ohtani’s salary was deposited into.

Mizuhara accompanied Ohtani to all meetings with his agent, accountants and financial advisors, none of whom spoke Japanese. He told Ohtani’s agent that the account was “private” and that Ohtani didn’t want anybody else to access it.

Ultimately, Mizuhara impersonated Ohtani to execute wire transfers from the account to the bookies.

How many bets did Ippei make?

Between November 2021 and January 2024, Mizuhara made approximately 19,000 bets – an average of about 25 per day.

The bets “ranged in value from roughly $10 to $160,000 per bet, with an average bet amount of roughly $12,800,” according to the affidavit.

Mizuhara had winning bets of $142,256,769.74 with total losing bets of $182,935,206.68 – a net balance of negative $40,678,436.94.

What else was in the affidavit?

Weeks before Ohtani agreed to a $700 million contract with the Dodgers, a bookmaker trying to get a hold of Mizuhara sent him a text message that mentioned he was watching the two-time MVP.

“Hey Ippie, it’s 2 o’clock on Friday. I don’t know why you’re not returning my calls. I’m here in Newport Beach and I see [Victim A] 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? Please call me back immediately.”

The Department of Justice confirmed that “Victim A” mentioned throughout the affidavit is Ohtani.

Additionally, the affidavit alleges that more than $325,000 was transferred from the account to eBay and Whatnot between January and March 2024 to purchase about 1,000 baseball cards.

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