Dodgers Fire Shohei Ohtani's Interpreter Over Claims of 'Massive Theft' Related to Gambling, Ohtani 'Beyond Shocked' (UPDATE)

Ippei Mizuhara has been Ohtani's interpreter since he came to the United States in 2018.

Baseball player in uniform with a surprised expression, teammates in the background
Image via Getty / Masterpress
Baseball player in uniform with a surprised expression, teammates in the background

UPDATED 4/10/24, 10:10 p.m. ET: Shohei Ohtani's former interpreter and friend Ippei Mizuhara appears to be leaning towards pleading guilty to stealing millions of dollars from the bank account of the Los Angeles Dodgers star in order to settle his exorbitant gambling debts, according to the New York Times.

As the federal investigation draws to a close, Mizuhara is said to be negotiating a guilty plea in the hopes that by doing so, he will receive a lenient sentence.

A guilty plea would mean that Ohtani was being truthful when he told reporters he became aware of Mizuhara's gambling debt just prior to the news going public. The two-time American League MVP recently spoke with authorities who wanted to have a better understanding of their relationship.

Prosecutors suspect Mizuhara made alterations to certain settings in Ohtani's bank account that would have alerted him of any suspicious activity. It is also believed Ippei stole more money than the reported $4.5 million.

UPDATED 3/25/24, 10:20 p.m. ET: The latest chapter in the Shohei Ohtani-Ippei Mizuhara drama unfolded with the Los Angeles Dodgers star breaking his silence on Monday.

Ohtani spoke at a press conference earlier today where he delivered a statement in Japanese, which was translated by team interpreter Will Ireton.

"I'm very saddened and shocked that someone I trusted has done this," the 20-year-old Dodgers slugger said of his friend and former translator Mizuhara, transcribed by CBS Sports.

Ohtani also established he has "never bet on baseball or any other sports."

"I have never asked anybody to do that on my behalf," he continued. "I have never gone through a bookmaker to bet on sports. Up until a couple of days ago, I didn't know this was happening."

"The first time I knew about this gambling—Ippei's gambling—was after the first game [in Korea] when we had the team meeting in the clubhouse," Ohtani claimed. "During the team meeting Ippei was speaking English and I didn't have a translator at my side. But even with that, I started to feel that there was something amiss."

Shohei Ohtani’s full statement about Ippei Mizuhara and the gambling allegations

— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) March 25, 2024
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Ohtani said he was unaware of Mizuhara's gambling debt until the two spoke in the team hotel later that night. The two-time American League MVP denied that he agreed to pay off bookmaker Mathew Bowyer, adding Mizuhara confessed during their conversation that he was using money from the player's account to make the payments.

"And at that moment—obviously it was an absurd thing that was happening—I contacted my representatives at that point," he said. "When I was finally able to talk to my representatives, that's when my representatives found out Ippei has been lying the whole time. And that's when I contacted the Dodgers and my lawyers."

"In conclusion, I do want to make it clear I never bet on sports or have willfully sent money to the bookmaker," Ohtani said. "To summarize how I'm feeling right now, I'm beyond shocked. It's hard to verbalize how I'm feeling at this point."

UPDATED 3/21, 8:45 p.m. ET: Major League Baseball is gathering information to determine if Shohei Ohtani had any involvement in the gambling scandal that resulted in the firing of his longtime friend and interpreter Ippei Mizuhara, sources tell TMZ.

ESPN reported Thursday that Mizuhara was interviewed about the gambling scandal the night before the news went public and appeared to admit Ohtani was aware of his debt and transferred the money. The story seemingly changed the next day, with the slugger's attorneys claiming he was the "victim of a massive theft."

According to Fabian Ardaya of the Athletic, Ohtani was not seen by reporters in the 50 minutes they were allowed to roam the Dodgers' locker room prior to Thursday’s game against the San Diego Padres in Seoul, South Korea.

Two team public relations officials stayed near Ohtani's locker after the game, preventing him from speaking to the media.

See original story below.

The Los Angeles Dodgers fired Shohei Ohtani's longtime friend and interpreter Ippei Mizuhara on Wednesday after a federal investigation found he had transferred at least $4.5 million from the two-time American League MVP's bank account to settle an outstanding gambling debt with bookmaker Mathew Bowyer.

"In the course of responding to recent media inquiries, we discovered that Shohei has been the victim of a massive theft, and we are turning the matter over to the authorities," Ohtani's attorneys Berk Brettler LLP said in a statement, obtained by ESPN.

The statement came after Mizuhara spoke with ESPN Tuesday night about the allegation. The interview was allegedly coordinated by a spokesperson for Ohtani with the understanding that the Dodgers star was the person who transferred the money to help out Mizuhara.

"Obviously, [Ohtani] wasn't happy about it and said he would help me out to make sure I never do this again," Mizuhara told ESPN. "He decided to pay it off for me."

"I want everyone to know Shohei had zero involvement in betting," he added. "I want people to know I did not know this was illegal. I learned my lesson the hard way. I will never do sports betting ever again."

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The spokesperson allegedly changed their stance the following day, adding Berk Brettler LLP would soon issue the aforementioned statement.

Mizuhara was later contacted by ESPN to determine if he was accused of committing "massive theft," but he declined to comment. He also allegedly changed his story, saying Ohtani was unaware of his gambling debt and never transferred the money.

ESPN confirmed two $500,000 payments from Ohtani's account were sent in September and October to Bowyer's associate. A source tells ESPN that Mizuhara worked solely with Bowyer when he started betting on international soccer and other sports in 2021. He did not bet on baseball.

Sports betting is illegal in the state of California.

Bowyer was aware of Ohtani's name on the wire transfers, but he did not seek further information. "Mr. Bowyer never met or spoke with Shohei Ohtani," his attorney Diane Bass told ESPN in a statement.

Mizuhara had been Ohtani's interpreter since 2018 when the slugger moved to the United States to join the Los Angeles Angels.

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