Ohtani's ex-interpreter surrenders to authorities on bank fraud case

Ohtani’s ex-interpreter surrenders to authorities on bank fraud case

Ippei Mizuhara appeared in a downtown courtroom Friday one day after being charged with federal bank fraud
/ 12:49 AM April 13, 2024

Shohei Ohtani, Ippei Mizuhara

FILE – Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani walks with interpreter Ippei Mizuhara at batting practice during spring training baseball workouts in Phoenix on Feb. 12, 2024. The former longtime interpreter for Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani has been charged with federal bank fraud for crimes involving gambling debts and theft of millions of dollars from the slugger. Federal authorities announced the development Thursday, April 11, at a press conference in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

LOS ANGELES – Shohei Ohtani’s former interpreter surrendered to federal authorities and appeared in a downtown courtroom Friday – one day after being charged with federal bank fraud for allegedly bilking more than $16 million from the Dodger slugger’s bank account to cover what prosecutor called the interpreter’s “insatiable appetite” for illegal sports betting.

Ippei Mizuhara, 39, was led into a federal courtroom in downtown Los Angeles Friday afternoon, wearing a suit but shackled at the ankles. US Magistrate Judge Maria A. Audero agreed in court to allow the shackles to be removed.

Audero approved Mizuhara’s release on an unsecured $25,000 appearance bond, and scheduled arraignment for May 9. Audero noted that Mizuhara has no prior criminal record and has ties to the area.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

The judge ordered Mizuhara not to travel out of the area and not to have any contact with Ohtani. He was also barred from engaging in any form of gambling or associating with bookmakers of any kind.

Audero also ordered Mizuhara to attend treatment sessions for gambling addiction, something his attorney, Michael Freedman, said he “fully intends” to do.

Mizuhara said little during the hearing, answering “yes” when asked if he understood the charge against him, then nodding in agreement to the conditions of his release.


Mizuhara could face up to 30 years in federal prison if convicted of the bank fraud charge.

At a news conference Thursday announcing 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 a bank account in Arizona, which eventually became the source of wire transfers to the illegal gambling operation, Estrada said.

Estrada stressed that Ohtani “is considered a victim in this case.” “There is no evidence to indicate that Mr. Ohtani authorized the over $16 million in transfers from his account to the bookmakers,” Estrada said.


According to Estrada, Ohtani has been fully cooperating with investigators. “Our investigation has revealed that due to the position of trust (Mizuhara) occupied with Mr. Ohtani, Mr. Mizuhara had unique access to Mr. Ohtani’s finances,” Estrada said, adding that he “used and abused to that trust to take advantage of Mr. Ohtani.”

According to Estrada, Mizuhara also allegedly lied to bank officials, and he was captured on tape-recorded calls impersonating Ohtani to “convince the bank to approve large wire transfers of large amounts of money to the bookmakers.”

Estrada said Mizuhara’s acted “to plunder” Ohtani’s bank account to satisfy his “insatiable appetite for illegal sports betting,” and he “committed fraud on a massive scale.”

According to an affidavit filed in federal court by Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations special agent Chris Seymour, records obtained from a source within the illegal gambling operation showed that between December 2021 and January 2024, about 19,000 wagers were attributed to Mizuhara, averaging roughly 25 per day and ranging in amounts from about $10 to $160,000.

During that period, the records showed Mizuhara had winning bets worth nearly $142.3 million, and losing bets of $182.9 million, leaving him with a roughly $40.7 million deficit.

Seymour wrote in the document that Mizuhara was acting as a “de facto manager” for Ohtani, and he began placing bets with the illegal gambling operation in late 2021. At about that time, bank records showed that the contact information on the Arizona bank account, which was opened in March 2018, was changed to a phone number and email linked to Mizuhara.

Late last month, when news of the scandal was beginning to go public, Mizuhara texted the bookmaker behind the gambling operation and admitted that he had been stealing money from Ohtani, according to affidavit.

The affidavit also documents a series of increasingly intense 2023 text exchanges between Mizuhara and the bookmaker as the gambling losses were mounting. At one point, after Mizuhara had apparently failed to respond to the bookmaker, the bookmaker sent a message saying he was watching Ohtani walk his dog in Newport Beach and threatened to “just go up and talk to him and ask how I can get in touch with you since you’re not responding.”

Mizuhara initially said last month that Ohtani agreed to provide the money to cover the interpreter’s gambling debts, but he later retracted that statement and said the Dodger star was unaware of his activities.

At a news conference last month, Ohtani denied any knowledge of Mizuhara’s actions. He also vehemently denied that he was involved in any gambling activity.

“I never bet on baseball or any other sports or never have asked somebody to bet on my behalf,” he insisted.

Ohtani said Mizuhara “has been stealing money from my account and has told lies.”

Ohtani’s attorneys issued a statement last month saying he had been the victim of a “massive theft.”

Estrada said none of the illegal bets allegedly placed by Mizuhara were on baseball games.

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

Bowyer’s San Juan Capistrano home was searched by federal agents last year. During an ESPN interview last month that was later disavowed by an Ohtani spokesman, Mizuhara 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. The Dodgers quickly fired Mizuhara.

At his subsequent news conference at Dodger Stadium, Ohtani – speaking through a new interpreter – said he knew nothing of Mizuhara’s gambling addiction or the debts until Mizuhara spoke to the team last month in the clubhouse while the Dodgers were playing in Korea. 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.

Ohtani signed a $700 million contract with the Dodgers during the offseason after six years with the Angels. (CNS)

Don't miss out on the latest news and information.
TAGS: crime, financial fraud
For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.
Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.