Ohtani says interpreter stole from him to pay gambling debt

Ohtani ‘beyond shocked,’ says interpreter stole from him to pay gambling debts

Ohtani said he only learned about the theft last week while the team was playing in Korea
/ 11:15 PM March 25, 2024

Shohei Ohtani

Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani prepares to bat during the second inning of a spring training baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels Monday, March 25, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

LOS ANGELES – Saying he is “beyond shocked,” Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani said Monday his former interpreter stole money from his accounts without his knowledge to pay off massive gambling debts, and he only learned about the theft last week while the team was playing in Korea.

Ohtani, speaking to reporters at Dodger Stadium for the first time since the scandal surrounding former interpreter Ippei Mizuhara became public, stressed that “I never bet on baseball or any other sports or never have asked somebody to bet on my behalf.”

“Up until a couple days ago I didn’t know that this was happening,” Ohtani said, adding that Mizuhara “has been stealing money from my account and has told lies.”

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According to various reports, as much as $4.5 million in wire transfers were made from Ohtani’s bank account to an illegal bookmaking operation allegedly run by Orange County resident Mathew Bowyer, who is under federal investigation.

Bowyer’s attorney, Diane Bass, told The Times and ESPN that Bowyer has never met or spoken with Ohtani. A source told ESPN that Bowyer was aware Ohtani’s name was on the wire transfers, but he didn’t ask any questions as long as the money was coming in.

Bowyer’s San Juan Capistrano home was searched by federal agents last year.


According to ESPN, Mizuhara gave the network a 90-minute interview last week in which he laid out his side of the story — an interview arranged by an Ohtani spokesman.

But after the interview, the same spokesman disavowed Mizuhara’s account and said a statement would be made instead by Ohtani’s attorneys, which happened last Wednesday alleging that Ohtani was the victim of a “massive theft.” During the ESPN interview, Mizuhara, 39, said he asked Ohtani last year to pay off his gambling debts, and Ohtani, while unhappy about it, agreed to do so.

Mizuhara told the network that Ohtani had no involvement in any betting, and the interpreter insisted that he didn’t realize his betting activities were illegal in California.


He also said he never bet on any baseball games. The next day, however, Mizuhara recanted his comments, telling ESPN that Ohtani had no knowledge of his gambling debts and denying that Ohtani had transferred any money to the bookmaking operation.

On Monday, Ohtani — speaking through a new interpreter — said he knew nothing of Mizuhara’s gambling addiction or the debts until last week when there was a team meeting in the clubhouse, where Mizuhara spoke to the team.

Ohtani noted that since Mizuhara was speaking English during the meeting, he didn’t have a translator, “but I kind of understood what was going on and started to realize something was amiss.”

“Up until that team meeting, I didn’t know that Ippei had a gambling addiction and was in debt,” Ohtani said.

But he stressed, “I never agreed to pay off the debt or make payments to the bookmaker.”

Ohtani said he spoke privately to Mizuhara at the team hotel that night. “And it was revealed to me during that meeting that Ippei admitted that he was sending money using my account to a bookmaker,” he said. He said he immediately informed his representatives and the team. The Dodgers quickly fired Mizuhara.

“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.”

He again stressed, “I do want to make it clear that I never bet on sports or willfully sent money to the bookmaker.” Major League Baseball has opened a formal investigation of its own into the matter.

The league said in a statement Friday that “Major League Baseball has been gathering information since we learned about the allegations involving Shohei Ohtani and Ippei Mizuhara from the news media. Earlier today, our Department of Investigations (DOI) began their formal process investigating the matter.”

Over the weekend, further questions arose about Mizuhara’s credentials. UC Riverside denied that Mizuhara attended the school, as Mizuhara claimed in his publicly distributed resume.

Mizuhara’s bio said he graduated from UC Riverside in 2007.

A story published by The Athletic also questioned whether Mizuhara actually spent spring training in 2012 working for the New York Yankees as an interpreter for Japanese pitcher Hideki Okajima, as claimed in the Angels media guides when Ohtani played for the Angels.

According to multiple news reports, Okajima failed a physical on Feb. 17, 2012, before spring training, and was released by the Yankees.

The Boston Red Sox also released a statement insisting that Mizuhara never worked for the team, disputing news reports that Mizuhara was Okajima’s interpreter with Boston in 2010.

Mizuhara could not be reached for comment. According to ESPN, MLB is expected to request interviews with all parties, including Ohtani and Mizuhara. But the sports network said MLB cannot compel Mizuhara to cooperate since he no longer is employed by the league.

According to the Los Angeles Times and ESPN, the investigation into Bowyer, who has not been charged with a crime, involves the same prosecutors who investigated an Orange County-based gambling ring led by Wayne Nix, 46, a former minor league baseball player from Newport Coast. Nix pleaded guilty to a federal charge of helping operate an illegal sports gambling business. A sentencing date has not been set.

Nix’s longtime partner in the gambling operation, Edon Kagasoff, 45, of Lake Forest, pleaded guilty in April 2022 to one count of conspiracy to operate an illegal gambling business and was sentenced last year to six months of probation and a $1,000 fine. He was also ordered to forfeit $3.1 million he earned through the operation.

That investigation also ensnared former Dodgers slugger Yasiel Puig, who is facing one federal count each of making false statements and obstruction of justice. He initially agreed to plead guilty but later changed his mind. A trial date has not been set. (CNS)

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