Shohei Ohtani's former interpreter surrenders to authorities on bank fraud charges

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LOS ANGELES — The former interpreter for Major League Baseball superstar Shohei Ohtani turned himself in to authorities Friday morning, a day after he was federally charged with stealing more than $16 million from the Los Angeles Dodgers player to make illegal sports bets.

Ippei Mizuhara, 39, of Newport Beach, California, is charged with bank fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.

Mizuhara was released Friday on $25,000 bond, Mizuhara’s attorney Michael Freedman said.

“He is continuing to cooperate with the legal process and is hopeful that he can reach an agreement with the government to resolve this case as quickly as possible so that he can take responsibility,” Freedman said in a statement. “He wishes to apologize to Mr. Ohtani, the Dodgers, Major League Baseball, and his family. As noted in court, he is also eager to seek treatment for his gambling.”

During his initial appearance in court, Mizuhara was ordered to remain in the Central District of California, an area of Southern California that includes Los Angeles County. He can not contact Ohtani and must complete a gambler’s addiction program, Freedman confirmed to NBC News.

Mizuhara was also ordered to surrender his passport, according to NBC Los Angeles.

Martin Estrada, the U.S. attorney for the Central District of California, said in a news conference Thursday that Mizuhara opened a bank account for Ohtani in 2018 and then acted as his de facto manager, shutting out Ohtani’s agent, accountant and financial adviser from the account.

Mizuhara committed “massive fraud” against Ohtani to satisfy an “insatiable appetite for illegal sports gambling,” Estrada said.

“I want to emphasize this point: Mr. Ohtani is considered a victim in this case. There is no evidence to indicate that Mr. Ohtani authorized the over $16 million of transfers from his account to the bookmakers,” he said.

Ippei Mizuhara, interpreter for Shohei Ohtani. (Kiyoshi Mio / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images file)
Ippei Mizuhara, interpreter for Shohei Ohtani. (Kiyoshi Mio / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images file)

Ohtani, 29, came to the U.S. in 2018 to play for the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim. In December he went to the Dodgers in a $700 million, 10-year deal.

Ohtani has “cooperated fully” in the investigation and has given access to his digital devices and personal information, Estrada said.

Mizuhara, who did not bet on baseball, is “linked to an illegal gambling operation,” Estrada said.

From November 2021 to January 2024, Mizuhara wired more than $16 million in unauthorized transfers from a checking account belonging to Ohtani, according to an affidavit filed with a criminal complaint. The transfers from the bank account were made from devices and IP addresses associated with Mizuhara, federal prosecutors said in a statement.

In September 2021, Mizuhara began gambling with an illegal sports book and, months later, started losing large sums of money, prosecutors said.

Mizuhara is accused of making 19,000 bets that ranged in value from $10 to $160,000 per bet from December 2021 to January 2024, the affidavit said.

Mizuhara’s winning bets totaled more than $142,256,000 and losing bets about $182,935,000. His total losses amounted to more than $40,679,000, the affidavit said.

During this time, the contact information on Ohtani’s bank account allegedly was changed to connect the account to Mizuhara’s phone number and to an anonymous email address linked to Mizuhara, prosecutors said.

He also called the bank and identified himself as Ohtani to fool employees into authorizing wire transfers from the account to people linked to the illegal gambling operation, prosecutors said.

The allegations against Mizuhara centered specifically on wire transfers from Ohtani’s account — totaling at least $4.5 million, made in at least nine payments of $500,000 — to a bookmaking operation in Southern California that is under federal investigation, a person familiar with Ohtani and Mizuhara’s interactions has told NBC News.

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