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Shohei Ohtani's ex-interpreter charged with federal bank fraud

Shohei Ohtani's ex-interpreter charged with federal bank fraud
Shohei Ohtani's ex-interpreter charged with federal bank fraud 02:41

The former longtime interpreter for Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani is being charged with federal bank fraud for crimes involving gambling debts and theft of millions of dollars from the Japanese sensation, federal authorities said Thursday.

U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada announced the charges during a morning news conference, saying the complaint charges Ippei Mizuhara with bank fraud for allegedly stealing more than $16 million from Ohtani. Mizuhara agreed to surrender himself to federal law enforcement on Friday for his initial court appearance.

During their investigation, the Department of Justice found no evidence Ohtani was involved, saying the baseball star is considered a victim in the case.    

"According to the complaint, Mr. Mizuhara stole this money, largely to finance his voracious appetite for illegal sports betting,"  Estrada said.

Mizuhara served as Ohtani's interpreter after the slugger came to the U.S. to play baseball. Estrada says Mizhuara "acted as Mr. Ohtani's de facto manager."

Estrada says Mizuhara helped Ohtani set up a bank account in 2018 where Ohtani would deposit his baseball salary. Estrada also said that Mizuhara refused to give bank account access to Ohtani's other professional advisors, including his agent, his accountant, and his financial advisor.

"He told them that Mr. Ohtani wanted to keep that account private," Estrada said. In 2021, Mizuhara began placing sports bets.

"Over time, Mr. Mizuhara's bets became more and more frequent. And over time, Mr. Mizuhara's bets became larger and larger in amounts," Estrada said. He made thousands of wagers over time, and Estrada said the bets do not appear to be made on the sport of baseball.

Phone and bank records show Mizuhara accessed Ohtani's account online, Estrada said. He also lied to the bank to access the account, impersonating Ohhani at times.

An investigation into Mizuhara, began about three weeks ago after attorneys for Ohtani claimed that Mizuhara had engaged in "massive theft" of the baseball star's money to cover sports gambling debts.

Mizuhara was abruptly fired by the team after the scandal surfaced, with the IRS and Major League Baseball both investigating.

Ohtani subsequently laid out a version of events that placed responsibility entirely on Mizuhara, who had given conflicting accounts of whether Ohtani had paid off Mizuhara's gambling debts.

Ohtani left the Los Angeles Angels in December to sign a record $700 million, 10-year contract with the Dodgers. Ohtani and Mizuhara had been daily companions since Ohtani joined the Angels in 2018.

Mizuhara told ESPN on March 19 that Ohtani paid his gambling debts at the interpreter's request, saying the bets were on international soccer, the NBA, the NFL and college football. But ESPN said Mizuhara changed his story the next day, saying Ohtani had no knowledge of the gambling debts and had not transferred any money to bookmakers.

On March 25, Ohtani told a Dodger Stadium press conference that he never bet on sports or knowingly paid any gambling debts accumulated by his interpreter.

"I am very saddened and shocked someone whom I trusted has done this," the Japanese star said through a new interpreter.

"Ippei has been stealing money from my account and has been telling lies," Ohtani said. "I never bet on sports or have willfully sent money to the bookmaker."

Ohtani said he first became aware of Mizuhara's gambling problem during a team meeting after a season-opening victory over the San Diego Padres in Seoul, South Korea.

There has been no information about the status of baseball's separate investigation. MLB rules prohibit players and team employees from wagering - even legally - on baseball. They also ban betting on other sports with illegal or offshore bookmakers.

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