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Shohei Ohtani's ex-interpreter Ippei Mizuhara in custody after allegedly stealing millions in gambling scheme

Shohei Ohtani’s ex-interpreter Ippei Mizuhara in custody after allegedly stealing millions in gambling scheme

طوبیٰ Tooba 3 months ago 0 1

Ippei Mizuhara, the former interpreter for Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani, turned himself into law enforcement on Friday, the Department of Justice announced.

“Ippei Mizuhara surrendered this morning to the custody of the United States Marshals Service,” federal authorities said Friday in a statement sent to Fox News Digital.

A criminal complaint and affidavit filed on Thursday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles alleges that Mizuhara participated in bank fraud by embezzling more than $16 million from the Japanese baseball great to cover gambling wagers and debts. Prosecutors asserted that Mizuhara took advantage of the language barrier to plunder a bank account that only he could access.

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Ippei Mizuhara looks up

Japanese baseball player Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter Ippei Mizuhara appears during a press conference after Ohtani signed a 10-year deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles on Dec. 14, 2023. (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada said Mizuhara was so intertwined in Ohtani’s life and career that he became the star’s “de facto manager.” The role enabled him to withdraw money from the account — at times lying and impersonating Ohtani to bank employees — to finance his “insatiable appetite for illegal sports betting.”

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Thursday’s announcement ended weeks of speculation about Mizuhara’s self-admitted gambling problems, the wide-ranging federal investigation and Ohtani’s role in the scandal.

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Estrada said that there is no evidence that Ohtani was aware of his interpreter’s actions, adding that Ohtani has cooperated with investigators.

“I want to emphasize this point: Mr. Ohtani is considered a victim in this case,” he said.

Ohtani and interpreter at conference

Shohei Ohtani, left, and Ippei Mizuhara appear at a press conference at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on Dec. 14, 2023.  (Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Ohtanti publicly addressed the gambling scandal in late March, saying that he had never placed a sports bet and that Mizuhara’s story about paying off his $4.5 million gambling debt was entirely fabricated.

“I never bet on baseball or any other sports, or never have asked somebody to do that on my behalf,” Ohtani said through a new interpreter prior to the Dodgers’ final spring training game. “And never went through a bookmaker to bet on sports.”

Ohtani, who is the highest-paid player in Major League Baseball, said he was still trying to find his emotions after learning about the scandal. 

“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.

“I’m very saddened and shocked that someone who I trusted has done this.”

The criminal complaint — detailing the scheme through text messages, financial records and recordings of phone calls — showed even Mizuhara knew the jig was up. In a message to his illegal bookmaker on March 20, the day the Los Angeles Times and ESPN broke the news of the investigation, he wrote: “Technically I did steal from him. it’s all over for me.”

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Mizuhara faces up to 30 years in federal prison if he’s convicted of a single count of bank fraud. His attorney, Michael G. Freedman, declined to comment Thursday.

Mizuhara’s first court appearance is scheduled for Friday at the Edward R. Roybal Federal Building and United States Courthouse in Los Angeles.

Fox News’ Scott Thompson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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