Ohtani translator accused of stealing $16 million from Dodgers star

1 month ago

Shohei Ohtani answers questions and Ippei Mizuhara translates during the Shohei Ohtani Los Angeles Dodgers Press Conference at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, December 14, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. 

Rob Leiter | Major League Baseball | Getty Images

Shoehei Ohtani's former translator Ippei Mizuhara allegedly stole over $16 million from the Los Angeles Dodgers star to cover millions of dollars of gambling debts, the U.S. attorney's office announced on Thursday.

The office, which filed a criminal complaint against Mizuhara on Thursday, also said Ohtani had no knowledge of the fraud and is considered a victim in the case.

The bets were not placed on baseball games, the office said.

Mizuhara had been Ohtani's translator for years. Over that time, the attorney's office discovered that Mizuhara had full access to Ohtani's bank accounts. Phone records indicate he accessed them online and lied to the bank pretending to be Ohtani, the office said. He refused to give access to the accounts to Ohtani's agent and other advisors.

"Due to to the position of trust, he had unique access to his finances and he used and abused that place of trust to take advantage of Mr. Ohtani," said Martin Estrada, United States attorney.

Mizuhara has been the subject of a federal investigation surrounding millions of dollars in wire transfers originating from Ohtani's bank account to an illegal bookmaker.

The Ohtani fraud was first discovered as the DOJ was looking into illegal bookmakers.

Estrada said Mizuhara kept his winnings in his own bank account.

While sports gambling is legal in 38 states and Washington, D.C., it's illegal in California, which has driven some bettors to illegal operations.

In a March 25 press conference, Ohtani said he had just learned about the theft and said he felt sad, shocked and betrayed by someone he had trusted.

"I've never bet on baseball, any other sports or never asked somebody to do it on my behalf," Ohtani said through another translator.

Previously, Mizuhara had said that Ohtani knew about the debts and was helping him pay them off. He later backtracked from those statements.

Mizuhara faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison for the charges and is expected to make a court appearance in the next couple of days.

Ohtahni is one of biggest stars in the MLB. The 29-year old Japanese born pitcher joined the Dodgers on Dec. 9 with a record 10-year, $700 million contract following six seasons with the Los Angeles Angels.

Ohtani is the only MLB player to win the American League MVP by unanimous vote twice and the first Japanese-born player to lead the major league in home runs.

If Ohtani was found to be involved, it would violate Major League Baseball's gambling policy, which says players can't bet on baseball in any form. Punishment ranges from suspension of a season to being permanently ineligible.

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