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Ippei Mizuhara, ex-interpreter of Shohei Ohtani, pleads guilty in sports betting case

Fox Sports

The former interpreter for Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani pleaded guilty to bank and tax fraud on Tuesday and admitted to stealing nearly $17 million from the Japanese baseball player to pay off sports betting debts.

Ippei Mizuhara’s crimes stunned the baseball world, shattering his image as Ohtani’s shadow at ballparks around the U.S. He entered his guilty plea Tuesday in federal court in Santa Ana, California.

The ex-interpreter had exploited his personal and professional relationship with Ohtani to plunder millions from the two-way player’s account for years, at times impersonating Ohtani to bankers. Mizuhara signed a plea agreement that detailed the allegations on May 5, and prosecutors announced it several days later.

Mizuhara’s attorney declined to comment outside the courthouse. Mizuhara spoke briefly in court acknowledging his guilt. “I worked for victim A and had access to his bank account and had fallen into major gambling debt,” he told the court. “I went ahead and wired money … with his bank account.”

Federal prosecutors declined to comment outside the courthouse.

Tuesday’s court hearing lasted approximately 45 minutes.

Mizuhara’s winning bets totaled over $142 million, which he deposited in his own bank account and not Ohtani’s. But his losing bets were around $183 million, a net loss of nearly $41 million. He did not wager on baseball.

Mizuhara pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud and one count of subscribing to a false tax return. The bank fraud charge carries a maximum of 30 years in federal prison, and the false tax return charge carries a sentence of up to three years in federal prison. The sentencing hearing is scheduled for Oct. 25.

He also is required to pay Ohtani restitution that could total nearly $17 million, as well as more than $1 million to the IRS. Those amounts, however, could change prior to sentencing.

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