Ohtani translator accused of stealing $16 million from Dodgers star

Shohei Ohtani’s former translator Ippei Mizuhara allegedly stole more than $16 million from the Los Angeles Dodgers star to cover millions of dollars of gambling debts, the U.S. attorney’s office announced 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. During that time, the attorney’s office discovered 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.

On March 20, 2024, Mizuhara admitted to a bookmaker in an encrypted text message that he had stolen the money from Ohtani, according to the complaint. “Technically I did steal from him. It’s all over for me,” he wrote.

“Due 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 U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada.

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 beginning in November 2021.

Attorneys for Ohtani, Mizuhara and the Dodgers declined to comment on the charges.

The Ohtani fraud was first discovered as the U.S. Department of Justice was looking into illegal sports bookmaking operations in Southern California and the laundering of the proceeds of those operations through casinos in Las Vegas. The investigations have led to criminal charges and/or convictions of 12 criminal defendants, the complaint said.

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

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.

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

Despite owing bookmakers millions of dollars in losses, Mizuhara repeatedly asked them to increase his betting limits.

“Bad run,” he texted a bookmaker. “Any chance you can bump me again?? As you know, you don’t have to worry about me not paying!!”

By November 2023, Mizuhara’s debts had become crippling. He messaged the same bookmaker saying he ended up losing a lot of money on crypto investments in the past couple of years and took huge hits with the sports betting, too.

“Is there any way to settle on an amount? I’ve lost way too much on the site already … of course I know it’s my fault,” he said.

Law enforcement officials said Ohtani has been fully cooperating and allowed them access to his electronic devices.

Ohtani told officials he believed his accountants and financial advisors were monitoring his accounts and because he received income from both foreign and domestic sources, he would generally not ask about specific accounts, but rather, an overall picture of his investment profile. Yet, due to the language barrier, financial agents and advisors communicated through Mizuhara to translate to their client.

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 Ohtani knew about the debts and was helping him pay them off. He later backtracked from those statements.

Ohtani is one of the biggest stars in Major League Baseball. 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, he could be in violation of the MLB’s gambling policy. Punishments range from suspension of a season to being permanently ineligible.

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Shohei Ohtani’s first name.

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