Baseball Star Shohei Ohtani’s Ex-Interpreter Faces Federal Charge after Allegedly Stealing $16M

On Thursday, a US attorney in Los Angeles stated that Ippei Mizuhara, a former translator for baseball player Shohei Ohtani, is accused of taking over $16 million from Ohtani and is facing a federal charge of bank fraud.

Ohtani's ex-interpreter charged1

The Former Interpreter for Baseball Player Shohei Ohtani is Charged Federally:

Former baseball sensation Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, is accused of taking over $16 million from Ohtani and is charged with federal bank fraud, according to a US attorney in Los Angeles on Thursday.

Mizuhara used his close friendship with Ohtani, a longtime friend he accompanied everywhere because the Japanese celebrity didn’t speak English well, “largely to finance his voracious appetite for illegal sports betting,” US Attorney Martin Estrada said. Mizuhara made unauthorized transfers from Ohtani’s bank account between November 2021 and January 2024.

The prosecution declared, “Mr. Ohtani is considered a victim in this case.”

The US attorney’s office stated, “Ohtani gave his cellphone to law enforcement, who found no evidence to suggest that Ohtani was aware of, or involved in, Mizuhara’s illegal gambling activity or payment of those debts.”

In a press release issued on Friday, the US Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California stated that Mizuhara has given his permission to turn himself into federal authorities. According to spokesperson Thom Mrozek, he is anticipated to appear in federal district court in Los Angeles at some point that day.

“We anticipate that the court will free Mr. Mizuhara on bail. According to a release from Mrozek, he won’t be required to enter a plea to the bank fraud accusation at Friday’s hearing.

Prosecutor: Mizuhara impersonated Ohtani

Mizuhara assisted the baseball sensation in opening a bank account in 2018, not long after Ohtani relocated to the US from Japan, Estrada reported on Thursday.

However, the prosecutor stated that Mizuhara declined to grant access to Ohtani’s other advisors who are making money, such as his financial advisor, accountant, and agent.

According to Estrada, Mizuhara accessed Ohtani’s account online using phone and bank data. Additionally, the prosecution said that Mizuhara began placing sports wagers with a gang of bookmakers connected to an illicit gambling enterprise in 2021.

Estrada declared, “We don’t think any bets were placed on baseball games.” However, Mr. Mizuhara’s wagers increased in frequency over time. Furthermore, Mr. Mizuhara’s wagers grew in size with time.

Estrada said any gains were deposited into Mizuhara’s account rather than Ohtani’s.

According to Estrada, Mizuhara even pretended to be Ohtani to persuade a bank to accept sizable wire transactions to bookies.

The prosecution declared, “Mr. Mizuhara committed fraud on a massive scale.”

According to Estrada, the authorities got phone recordings showing Mizuhara pretending to be Ohtani and providing personal biographical information to bank staff to receive permission to transfer the funds.

If these payments had been approved, Estrada claimed, “there would have been no reason for Mr. Mizuhara to impersonate Mr. Ohtani in calls with the bank.”

The claims came to light while the Dodgers were in South Korea for an MLB season-opening series in March. Ohtani’s attorneys allegedly accused Mizuhara of “massive theft” of millions of dollars and placing bets with a bookmaker who was the subject of a federal investigation, according to ESPN and the Los Angeles Times.

Following a comprehensive federal investigation, Major League Baseball issued a statement on Thursday stating, “We are aware of the complaints filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office accused Mr. Mizuhara of bank fraud.” “We will wait until the criminal case is resolved before deciding whether more research is necessary in light of today’s information and other information we have already gathered.”

What Occurs After that?

According to Estrada, Mizuhara, who was let go last month when the alleged loss was discovered, is scheduled to appear in federal court in the coming days to answer a bank fraud charge. Mizuhara may spend up to 30 years in jail if found guilty.

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