Indepth Look at How Ohtani's Interpreter Mizuhara Became Players' Lifeline

Written by:
Jagajeet Chiba
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In March, 2024, LA Dodgers super star player Shohei Ohtani became the center of a gambling scandal after it was reported his interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, had committed a "massive theft", stealing $4.5 million from Ohtani's bank account in order to pay off a gambling debt to Southern California bookmaker Mathew Bowyer. Ohtani denied any knowledge and insists he's never wagered on baseball as a player.

Indepth Look at How Ohtani's Interpreter Mizuhara Became Players' Lifeline

(April 19, 2024) - This week, ESPN dug deep into the roots of the relationship between Shohei Ohtani and his one time interpreter Ippei Mizhuhara, accused of stealing $4.5 million - and maybe more - from the star Dodger player's bank account to pay off gambling debts.

From ESPN's Tim Keown:

With the interpreter gig in Japan, Mizuhara seemed to have found his path in life. He graduated from Diamond Bar High School, in eastern Los Angeles County, in 2003 and worked a variety of jobs before finding a way to combine his language skills and love of sports to set out on a career. (Along the way, he falsely claimed to have attended and graduated from University of California, Riverside; university spokesperson Sandra Martinez says nobody by that name was ever enrolled.) In high school, he appears to have left a minimal footprint. He was on the soccer team -- the third-string goalkeeper who almost never played but enjoyed the game and always showed up for practice. "I don't even remember if he ever got into a game," says Kemp Wells, who was an assistant coach at the time. Mizuhara was unmemorable as a student, too: quiet, self-sufficient, definitely not someone his teachers or classmates expected to see splashed across every news platform in the country.

"When it comes to students, I tend to remember the really good ones and the really bad ones," says Wells, who taught Mizuhara senior-year English. "And he was neither. Just kept his head down and did his work."

The federal affidavit against Mizuhara depicts a relationship predicated on complete trust that Mizuhara used to his advantage, Keown writes.

Just as American players arriving in Japan relied on Mizuhara, including to arrange for work visas, it's easy to see how Ohtani would come to rely on him coming to the US. 

Keown's piece discusses American players in Japan like Michael Crotta, who seemed lost without Mizuhara and how he would ultimately gain their trust. Crotta, Mitch Lively and Red Sox reliever Chris Martin are each profiled in the article.

Just one week prior to the news involving Mizuhara's alleged theft, Martin had appeared on a podcast where he said about his time in Japan with Mizuhara, "All of my trust was in Ippei, and that was a lot of trust."


Ohtani Former Interpreter in Negotiations

(April 11, 2024) - Ippei Mizuhara, fired by the Los Angeles Dodgers in March and accused of stealing millions of Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani’s money for gambling.  There are now reports that Mizuhara allegedly changed settings on Ohtani's bank account to hide transactions.  He is alleged to have sent $4.5 million to a bookie to cover a gambling debt.

Mizhuara is said to be in negotiations to plead guilty to multiple federal crimes related to the scandal, according to The New York Times.

Tim Arando and Michael S. Schmidt of the Times write:

"Those briefed on the matter claim that prosecutors have uncovered evidence that Mizuhara may have stolen more money from Ohtani than the $4.5 million he was initially accused of pilfering, the people said. In particular, the authorities think they have evidence that Mizuhara was able to change the settings on Ohtani's bank account so Ohtani would not receive alerts and confirmations about transactions, the three people said."

Ex-Interpreter to Plead Guilty

(April 10, 2024) - Ippei Mizuhara, fired by the Los Angeles Dodgers in March and accused of stealing millions of Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani’s money for gambling, is expected to plead guilty to federal charges issued later this week.

The New York Times reported today that Mizuhara is negotiating his guilty plea to a raft of charges. He is accused of siphoning at least $4.5 million from Ohtani’s accounts to cover his gambling debts.

The investigation is being run by the Los Angeles offices of the IRS’ criminal division, the Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. attorney’s office for the Central District of California, the Times reported. (Source: Deadline).

MLB May Have Tougher Time Subpoenaing Shohei Ohtani Interpreter in Gambling Probe

(April 10, 2024) - Major League Baseball can only investigate individuals still part of the league, not those they fired. And Ohtani's one-time interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, was swiftly fired by the MLB.

Legal analyst and attorney Dina Doll told The Times, “This investigation may be dead on arrival. The fact that Ippei Mizuhara was fired by the Dodgers will complicate MLB investigation into the alleged theft and illegal gambling scandal because its Department of Investigation only has the power to subpoena employees of the league."

On Wednesday, it was revealed that Mizuhara had fled to South Korea, which presents an obstacle for an investigation by law enforcement. 

"Even the IRS will have a difficult time in its investigation compelling Mizuhara to give evidence if he remains outside the country.”

Ohtani Former Manager Believes a Point

“When I read all this, heard all this, I just did not want to believe any of it,” Ohtani's former manager, Joe Maddon, told Jayson Stark and Doug Glanville on the early April edition of the Starkville podcast. “The fact that Ippei would be disloyal to Shohei was, like, really a thought that I could not even fathom and never even imagined. … And I was upset. I was viscerally upset about the whole thing.”

Madden spoke on the bank access issue.

"So it was 'easily' conceivable to him, Maddon said, “that Shohei would rely on Ippei to handle, like, daily bill paying. … So that, to me, is not a reach by any means. The part that I don’t quite understand is the fact that, especially when you talk about those ($4.5 million) numbers, if they are accurate, that the agency would not have known about that.”

The agency would almost certainly have noticed $4.5 million missing from the bank account even if Ohtani's 10-year contract with the LA Dodgers is worth $700 million.  Actually, Ohtani only stands to be paid $2 million each of the next 10 years. The other $680 million is scheduled to be paid out in $68 million installments on July 1 every year from 2034-43.

- Jagajeet Chiba,

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