Shohei Ohtani's ex-interpreter Ippei Mizuhara charged with federal bank fraud

Ippei Mizuhara, the former interpreter of Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani, is charged with federal bank fraud after he allegedly bilked more than $16 million from Ohtani to cover gambling debts. 

During a press conference Thursday, officials with the Department of Justice said Mizuhara stole millions from Ohtani to finance his "voracious appetite for illegal sports betting" and "committed fraud on a massive scale."

Mizuhara is expected to surrender to federal authorities Friday in downtown Los Angeles and will likely be released on bond. He is not expected to enter a plea during this hearing. Mizuhara could face up to 30 years in federal prison if convicted of the charge. 

U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada said Mizuhara had unique access to Ohtani and his personal affairs due to his relationship with the slugger, for whom he worked as an interpreter since Ohtani joined the Angels organization six years ago. In that capacity, he helped Ohtani set up his bank accounts, so he knew how to access them without Ohtani's knowledge, Estrada said.

Mizuhara, who also acted as Ohtani's manager, allegedly changed the settings on Ohtani’s bank account so he would not receive transaction alerts, officials said.


At this time there is no evidence linking Ohtani to the $16 million in transfers from his account to the bookmakers and he is fully cooperating with the investigation, officials said.

Last month, the Dodgers fired Mizuhara after reports surfaced that Mizuhara had stolen more than $4.5 million from Ohtani to pay off gambling debts to an illegal bookmaker in Orange County.

Ohtani's knowledge of what had gone on was constantly in question, mainly due to conflicting stories Mizuhara allegedly told ESPN. In an initial interview with Tisha Thompson, Mizuhara claimed that Ohtani knew about the payments, and had voluntarily given him the money to cover his debts. Days later, Mizuhara told Thompson that that story was a lie. 

Days later, Ohtani addressed the scandal for the first time, through a new interpreter, saying "I’ve never bet on baseball or any other sports or never have asked someone to do it on my behalf. I have never gone through a bookmaker to bet on sports."

During that press conference, Ohtani claimed he learned of the illegal gambling moments after Mizuhara shared the news with the Dodgers team after their first game in South Korea.

"To summarize how I'm feeling right now, I'm just beyond shocked," Ohtani said. "It's really hard to verbalize how I'm feeling at this point."

"The season's going to start, so I'm going to obviously let my lawyers handle matters from here on out, and I am completely assisting in all investigations that are taking place right now," he said. "I'm looking forward to focusing on the season."

The MLB is also conducting its own official investigation.

City News Service contributed to this report.