Dodgers dismiss interpreter for Shohei Ohtani due to massive theft allegations.Dodgers dismiss interpreter for Shohei Ohtani due to massive theft allegations.

The interpreter for Shohei Ohtani, representing the Los Angeles Dodgers, was dismissed on Wednesday afternoon amidst inquiries regarding wire transfers totaling at least $4.5 million from Ohtani’s bank account to a bookmaking operation. Ippei Mizuhara, a close friend and interpreter for Ohtani, reportedly accrued gambling debts with a Southern California bookmaker currently under federal scrutiny. The catalyst for his termination stemmed from media inquiries into the wire transfers. Initially, a spokesperson for Ohtani asserted that the slugger had transferred the funds to cover Mizuhara’s gambling losses. Mizuhara provided a detailed account during a 90-minute interview with ESPN, but the spokesperson later renounced his statement, indicating that Ohtani’s legal team would address the matter. A statement from Berk Brettler LLP suggested that Ohtani was the victim of theft, without specifying the alleged perpetrator. Mizuhara, questioned by ESPN, refrained from commenting on accusations of theft. Bank data reviewed by ESPN indicated that the wire transfers were directed to an associate of Bowyer’s. Despite Ohtani’s name appearing on the transfers, multiple sources, including Mizuhara, asserted that Ohtani does not partake in gambling and that the funds were intended to cover Mizuhara’s losses. Notably, sports betting is legal in nearly 40 states, but remains prohibited in California. While government-regulated sportsbooks necessitate upfront payments, illegal bookmakers often extend credit to bettors.

Sources familiar with the gambling enterprise informed ESPN that Bowyer directly engaged with Mizuhara, who placed wagers on international soccer matches and other sports, excluding baseball, beginning in 2021. According to one source, Bowyer acknowledged the name on the wire transfers but refrained from probing further as long as payments were received. However, the source indicated that Bowyer allowed the perception that Ohtani was a patron to enhance business prospects.

Diane Bass, representing Bowyer, stated to ESPN, “Mr. Bowyer never had any interaction with Shohei Ohtani,” declining further inquiry.

In a Tuesday interview facilitated by Ohtani’s spokesperson, Mizuhara, 39, disclosed to ESPN that he requested Ohtani, 29, last year to settle his gambling debts, reportedly totaling at least $4.5 million. Mizuhara admitted to placing bets through DraftKings previously and assumed Bowyer’s betting operations were lawful.

“He [Ohtani] was obviously displeased and assured me he would assist me in ensuring I refrain from such activities in the future,” Mizuhara stated. “He made the decision to clear my debts. I want to clarify that Shohei had no involvement in betting. I want people to understand I was unaware of its illegality. I have learned my lesson and will abstain from sports betting indefinitely.”

However, on Wednesday afternoon, Mizuhara informed ESPN that Ohtani had no awareness of his gambling liabilities and hadn’t transferred funds to Bowyer’s associate.

Mizuhara and Ohtani share a personal bond beyond their professional association. Since Ohtani’s relocation to the United States in 2018, Mizuhara has served as his interpreter, accompanying him in various settings, including dugouts, locker rooms, media engagements, and beyond. Mizuhara’s constant presence has made him recognizable to baseball enthusiasts. He has also been integral in facilitating communication between Ohtani and team management, often reviewing scouting reports with him during games. The two share a close relationship, with Mizuhara often performing personal tasks for Ohtani. Mizuhara previously had a contract with the Los Angeles Angels during Ohtani’s tenure there and recently signed with the Dodgers. Regarding his betting activities, Mizuhara clarified on Tuesday that he solely placed bets on international soccer, NBA, NFL, and college football, emphasizing his adherence to the prohibition against betting on baseball, a rule reinforced during spring training meetings.

While Major League Baseball (MLB) personnel are permitted to wager on sports other than baseball, it’s prohibited to engage with illegal bookmakers or offshore platforms. MLB regulations stipulate that bets made through illegal channels are subject to disciplinary action at the commissioner’s discretion.

An MLB insider informed ESPN that the league was not apprised of the situation until recently and hadn’t been contacted by federal authorities. The league’s next course of action is to gather pertinent details, a process that could be protracted given the ongoing federal inquiry.

Federal authorities purportedly became aware of Ohtani’s wire transfers in January as part of their scrutiny of Bowyer’s gambling enterprise, as per a source familiar with the matter. ESPN reviewed wire-transfer documentation for two transactions, each amounting to $500,000, with “Shohei Otani” listed alongside bank account particulars and the term “loan.” “Otani” corresponds to the legal name of the Japanese phenom.

Representatives from the U.S. attorney’s office in the Central District of California and Bowyer’s associate’s attorney both declined to comment.

According to two sources, federal authorities have not contacted either Ohtani or Mizuhara.

Bowyer, aged 48, potentially faces felony charges, with his residence reportedly raided by federal agents in October, as per multiple sources and documents scrutinized by ESPN. A search warrant inventory obtained by ESPN reveals that agents confiscated cash, casino chips, banking records, a money-counting apparatus, multiple computers, portable storage devices, and cell phones. Additionally, agents seized two Breitling watches and nearly a dozen luxury handbags from brands such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and Hermès.

. Mizuhara estimated his losses to exceed $1 million by the conclusion of 2022, spiraling thereafter.

“I’m terrible at gambling. I’ll never do it again. I never made any money,” Mizuhara admitted. “I dug myself into a hole, and it just kept getting deeper.. It was like a snowball effect.”

Mizuhara recounted that after Ohtani consented to settle his debts, Ohtani personally initiated wire transfers from his computer, under Mizuhara’s supervision, disbursing payments in installments over several months last year. The description field in the transactions included the term “loan.”

When questioned why Ohtani didn’t directly provide him with the funds instead of paying Bowyer’s associate, Mizuhara clarified that Ohtani harbored distrust regarding his gambling habits.

“He didn’t want me to squander it on gambling,” Mizuhara revealed.

Mizuhara asserted that he pledged to reimburse Ohtani.

Upon inquiry by an ESPN journalist regarding Mizuhara’s claims implicating Ohtani’s involvement in facilitating the transfers and the intention to repay, Ohtani’s spokesperson engaged Ohtani’s legal team, prompting the issuance of a statement asserting Ohtani as the victim of a “massive theft.”

However, on Wednesday afternoon, Mizuhara backtracked on much of his previous statement from late Tuesday, asserting that Ohtani had no awareness of his gambling pursuits, debts, or his attempts to settle them.

“Clearly, everything that has transpired is my responsibility,” he admitted. “I am prepared to accept whatever consequences come my way.”

Mizuhara mentioned he currently lacked legal representation but was “working on it,” affirming that he spoke with ESPN independently on Wednesday afternoon. Despite this, he reiterated that he had never engaged in betting on baseball.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers are currently in South Korea for their season-opening series, which commenced Wednesday with a 5-2 triumph over the San Diego Padres. Mizuhara was observed in the Dodgers’ dugout during the game. A team spokesperson disclosed that Mizuhara addressed the clubhouse post-game, acknowledging that a story was forthcoming and attributing fault to himself, disclosing his struggle with gambling addiction.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts abstained from commenting on the matter before the second game of the series on Thursday, asserting that Ohtani was focused on the upcoming game. Roberts announced that performance operations manager Will Ireton, who initially joined the Dodgers in 2016 as an interpreter for pitcher Kenta Maeda, would temporarily assume Mizuhara’s duties for Ohtani.

In December, Ohtani signed a landmark 10-year, $700 million contract with the Dodgers, establishing him as the highest-paid athlete in North American sports history. The contract structure entails the majority of the sum, $680 million, to be deferred and disbursed between 2034 and 2043.


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