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Shohei Ohtani gambling scandal: Interpreter Ippei Mizuhara to plead guilty, faces up to 33 years in prison



Ippei Mizuhara, the former interpreter for Dodgers superstar Shohei Ohtani, has agreed to plead guilty in the gambling scandal in which he has been accused of stealing almost $17 million from the baseball player and using it to place illegal bets, the U.S Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California announced Wednesday.

Mizuhara, described by the Attorney’s Office as Ohtani’s “de facto manager,” will plead guilty to one count of bank fraud and one count of Subscribing to a False Tax Return at an arraignment is scheduled for May 14. He faces a maximum sentence of 33 years in prison, five years of supervised release and a fine of $1,250,000.

Mizuhara will be required to pay full restitution to his victims, which includes $16,975,010 to Victim A, Ohtani, and $1,149,400 to the IRS.

“The extent of this defendant’s deception and theft is massive,” United States Attorney Martin Estrada said in a statement Wednesday. “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.”

Special Agent in Charge Tyler Hatcher, IRS Criminal Investigation, Los Angeles Field Office said in a statement that Mizuhara “exploited his relationship with Mr. Ohtani to bankroll his own irresponsibility.”

News of the fraud that entangled Ohtani broke back in March, and in the ensuing weeks we learned that Ohtani was the victim. Mizuhara racked up tens of millions of dollars in gambling debts to an illegal bookmaker and was funneling the money through casinos. He had been illicitly making withdrawals from Ohtani’s bank accounts, including by impersonating Ohtani on the phone with the bank, and having had access to all pertinent passwords and codes.

More, from the press release on Wednesday: 

As part of his job duties, Mizuhara regularly interacted with Ohtani’s sports agents and financial advisors – who did not speak Japanese – on behalf of Ohtani, who did not speak English. Although Mizuhara was an employee of the Los Angeles Angels MLB team, for whom Ohtani played from 2018 to 2023, and, later, the Los Angeles Dodgers, for whom Ohtani has played since 2024, Ohtani paid him separately for the additional work of driving him to meetings and interpreting for non-baseball-related activities.

Mizuhara’s gambling activities appeared to start in September 2021 and continued through March 2024. According to prosecutors, after going to a Phoenix bank with Ohtani to open a bank account, Mizuhara changed the security protocols on the account so bank employees would call him, rather than Ohtani, with any questions. Mizuhara impersonated Ohtani in calls with bank employees at least 24 times, according to the Attorney’s Office.

“When Ohtani’s sports agent and financial advisors asked Mizuhara for access to the bank account, Mizuhara lied and said Ohtani did not want them to access the account because it was private,” the DOJ said in a press release. “In fact, Mizuhara did not want them to know that he had been stealing from Ohtani and had fraudulently obtained more than $16,975,010 from him.”

As well as the millions siphoned out of Ohtani’s account to pay off gambling debt, Mizuhara also bought $325,000 worth of baseball cards on eBay and other online resellers in order to flip them and profit himself. In September 2023, Ohtani agreed to pay for Mizuhara’s $60,000 dental work and provided him with a check. Instead, according to prosecutors, Mizuhara paid the bill with Ohtani’s debit card and deposited the check into his personal account.

Mizuhara also admitted to falsely reporting his taxable income on his IRS tax returns in 2022, resulting in the tax fraud charge. According to the plea deal, Mizuhara falsely claimed he was single when he was in fact married and failed to report additional income of $4,100,000 that year. 

An attorney representing Mizuhara did not immediately return a request for comment from CBS Sports.





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