Shohei Ohtani’s Ex-Interpreter Pleads Guilty in $16 Million Fraud Case Tied to Gambling Scandal

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Ippei Mizuhara leaving federal court after after his arraignment in May 2024. - Credit: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images
Ippei Mizuhara leaving federal court after after his arraignment in May 2024. - Credit: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

Shohei Ohtani’s former interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, pled guilty to bank and tax fraud charges related to a gambling scandal that rocked Major League Baseball and one of its superstars.

Mizuhara entered his plea Tuesday, June 4, in federal court in Santa Ana, California, and he’ll be sentenced on Oct. 25. The two counts against him carry a maximum of 33 years in prison. (Mizuhara had originally filed a not guilty plea in May as a formality while his plea deal was being negotiated.)

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During the proceedings, as ESPN reports, the judge asked Mizuhara a series of “yes” or “no” regarding the ramifications of his plea deal. Prosecutors outlined the charges against Mizuhara, and near the end of the hearing the judge asked Mizuhara to describe what he’d done.

“I worked for Victim A and I had access to his bank account and I had fallen into major gambling debt, and the only way that I could think of was to use his money,” he replied. “I had access to Bank A. So I went ahead and wired money for my gambling debt with his bank account.” (Ohtani is not referred to by name in the charging documents but as “Victim A.”)

Prosecutors charged Mizuhara with stealing about $16 million from Ohtani to cover his sports gambling debts with a bookie who’s also under federal investigation. According to the complaint, Mizuhara placed around 19,000 wagers between December 2021 and January 2024, accruing a debut of about $40 million from $142 million in winnings and $182 million in losses. To cover these debts, prosecutors said Mizuhara siphoned money from Ohtani’s bank account, which he’d helped the MLB star set up.

While Mizuhara allegedly bet on a variety of sports, none of his bets were placed on professional baseball, according to the complaint. Ohtani, who’s been described as a “victim” by prosecutors, has maintained he did not know about Mizuhara’s gambling or debts.

In a new statement, Ohtani said: “Now that the investigation has been completed, this full admission of guilt has brought important closure to me and my family. I want to sincerely thank the authorities for finishing their thorough and effective investigation so quickly and uncovering all of the evidence. This has been a uniquely challenging time, so I am especially grateful for my support team – my family, agent, agency, lawyers, and advisors along with the entire Dodger organization, who showed endless support throughout this process. It’s time to close this chapter, move on and continue to focus on playing and winning ballgames.”

Following Mizuhara’s plea, Major League Baseball released a statement saying it was closing its own investigation into the matter. “Based on the thoroughness of the federal investigation that was made public, the information MLB collected, and the criminal proceeding being resolved without being contested, MLB considers Shohei Ohtani a victim of fraud and this matter has been closed.”

Ohtani’s team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, said, “With today’s plea in the criminal proceedings against Ippei Mizuhara and the conclusion of both federal and MLB investigations, the Dodgers are please that Shohei and the team can put this entire matter behind them and move forward in pursuit of a World Series title.”

This story was updated at 3:49 p.m. ET with a statement from Shohei Ohtani.

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