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Ohtani’s ex-interpreter to admit theft from Dodger slugger

PHOTO: Ippei Mizuhara (left) and L.A. Dodgers' player Shohei Ohtani (right), Photo Date: 03/20/2024
KTLA 5 / YouTube
PHOTO: Ippei Mizuhara (left) and L.A. Dodgers' player Shohei Ohtani (right), Photo Date: 03/20/2024

Shohei Ohtani's former interpreter has agreed to plead guilty to two federal charges for stealing nearly $17 million from the Dodger slugger's bank account to pay off illegal gambling debts, prosecutors announced today.   

Ippei Mizuhara, 39, is expected to plead guilty to one count each of bank fraud and subscribing to a false tax return, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. The bank fraud charge carries a possible prison term of up to 30 years, while the tax charge carries up to three years in federal prison.

A date has not yet set for him to enter the plea. His initial arraignment is scheduled for Tuesday.

"The extent of this defendant's deception and theft is massive,'' U.S. 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. My office is committed to vindicating victims throughout our community and ensuring that wrongdoers face justice."  

Ohtani was charged last month with bank fraud and surrendered to federal authorities on April 12. He was released on $25,000 bond.   

When the criminal case was announced, Estrada said Mizuhara had an ``insatiable appetite'' for illegal sports betting, which landed him millions of dollars in debt to a bookmaker and led him to transferring money out of Ohtani's bank account without his knowledge.

Mizuhara worked as an interpreter for Ohtani since the slugger joined the Angels organization six years ago. In that capacity, he helped Ohtani set up a bank account in Arizona, which eventually became the source of wire transfers to the illegal gambling operation, Estrada said.

Estrada stressed that Ohtani was a victim in the case and had no knowledge of Mizuhara's actions

According to Estrada, Mizuhara also allegedly lied to bank officials, and he was captured on tape-recorded calls impersonating Ohtani to "convince the bank to approve large wire transfers of large amounts of money to the bookmakers.''

Estrada said Mizuhara's acted "to plunder" Ohtani's bank account to satisfy his "insatiable appetite for illegal sports betting," and he "committed fraud on a massive scale.''

According to an affidavit filed in federal court by Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations special agent Chris Seymour, records obtained from a source within the illegal gambling operation showed that between December 2021 and January 2024, about 19,000 wagers were attributed to Mizuhara, averaging roughly 25 per day and ranging in amounts from about $10 to $160,000.

During that period, the records showed Mizuhara had winning bets worth nearly $142.3 million, and losing bets of $182.9 million, leaving him with a roughly $40.7 million deficit.

Seymour wrote in the document that Mizuhara was acting as a "de facto manager'' for Ohtani, and he began placing bets with the illegal gambling operation in late 2021. At about that time, bank records showed that the contact information on the Arizona bank account, which was opened in March 2018, was changed to a phone number and email linked to Mizuhara.   

The Dodgers fired Mizuhara earlier this year when news of the criminal investigation broke.

At a subsequent news conference, Ohtani denied any knowledge of Mizuhara's actions. He also vehemently denied that he was involved in any gambling activity.

"I never bet on baseball or any other sports or never have asked somebody to bet on my behalf,'' he insisted.   

Ohtani said Mizuhara "has been stealing money from my account and has told lies."

Estrada said none of the illegal bets allegedly placed by Mizuhara were on baseball games.

According to various reports, wire transfers were made from Ohtani's bank account to an illegal bookmaking operation allegedly run Orange County resident Mathew Bowyer, who is under federal investigation.   

Bowyer's San Juan Capistrano home was searched by federal agents last year.

Prosecutors said Wednesday Mizuhara also took money from Ohtani's account to pay other expenses, including $60,000 in dental work and $325,000 worth of baseball cards.

The false tax return charge stems from 2022 when Mizuhara falsified his taxable income by claiming only $136,865, when in fact the figure was more than $4.1 million stemming from his bank fraud, prosecutors said. He admits in his plea agreement that he owes more than $1.1 million in taxes for 2022.

Article Topic Follows: California

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