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Reports: Ohtani cleared by feds in gambling scandal

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

Federal investigators have determined that Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani had no involvement in his former interpreter's gambling addiction and did not engage in any gambling activity of his own, but he was simply the victim of a massive theft, according to an online report today.   

Citing unnamed law enforcement sources, TMZ Sports reported Wednesday night that investigators have determined that Ohtani was a victim in the scheme, and his former interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, is expected to be charged within days with embezzling roughly $4.5 million from the slugger without his knowledge to cover gambling debts.  

The New York Times reported that Mizuhara is negotiating with federal prosecutors to possibly plead guilty to multiple crimes. The paper reported that investigators have determined Mizuhara may have stolen even more money from Ohtani than originally suspected.

Mizuhara initially said last month that Ohtani agreed to provide the money to cover the interpreter's gambling debts, but he later retracted that statement and said the Dodger star was unaware of his activities.   

At a news conference last month, Ohtani denied any knowledge of Mizuhara's activities. 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."  

Ohtani's attorneys issued a statement last month saying he had been the victim of a "massive theft."

According to various reports, about $4.5 million in 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.    During an ESPN interview last month that was later disavowed by an Ohtani spokesman, Mizuhara, 39, said he asked Ohtani last year to pay off his gambling debts, and Ohtani, while unhappy about it, agreed to do so. Mizuhara told the network that Ohtani had no involvement in any betting, and the interpreter insisted that he didn't realize his betting activities were illegal in California. He also said he never bet on any baseball games.

The next day, however, Mizuhara recanted his comments, telling ESPN that Ohtani had no knowledge of his gambling debts and denying that Ohtani had transferred any money to the bookmaking operation.

At his subsequent news conference at Dodger Stadium, Ohtani -- speaking through a new interpreter -- said he knew nothing of Mizuhara's gambling addiction or the debts until Mizuhara spoke to the team last month in the clubhouse while the Dodgers were playing in Korea. Ohtani noted that since Mizuhara was speaking English during the meeting, he didn't have a translator "but I kind of understood what was going on and started to realize something was amiss."   

"Up until that team meeting, I didn't know that Ippei had a gambling addiction and was in debt,'' Ohtani said.   

But he stressed, "I never agreed to pay off the debt or make payments to the bookmaker."

Ohtani said he spoke privately to Mizuhara at the team hotel that night.   

"And it was revealed to me during that meeting that Ippei admitted that he was sending money using my account to a bookmaker,'' he said.   

He said he immediately informed his representatives and the team. The Dodgers quickly fired Mizuhara.

"To summarize how I'm feeling right now, I'm just beyond shocked,'' Ohtani said. "It's really hard to verbalize how I'm feeling at this point."  

"The season's going to start, so I'm going to obviously let my lawyers handle matters from here on out, and I am completely assisting in all investigations that are taking place right now,'' he said. "I'm looking forward to focusing on the season."  

He again stressed, "I do want to make it clear that I never bet on sports or willfully sent money to the bookmaker."

Major League Baseball has opened a formal investigation of its own into the matter.   

Ohtani signed a $700 million contract with the Dodgers during the offseason after six years with the Angels.

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