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Shohei Ohtani’s ex-interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, facing federal charge for allegedly stealing $16M from Dodgers star

Sean Leahy and Callie Lawson-Freeman, YahooSports

Ippei Mizuhara, the former interpreter of Shohei Ohtani, has been formally charged with bank fraud for allegedly stealing more than $16 million from the Los Angeles Dodgers star.

During a news conference Thursday, U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada said that Mizuhara made unauthorized transfers from Ohtani’s bank account between November 2021 and January 2024 to pay off his gambling debts with an illegal bookmaker.

The bank fraud charge is a felony offense that carries a maximum fine of up to $1 million and/or up to 30 years in federal prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Central District of California. Mizuhara is expected to appear in a U.S. district court in Los Angeles in the “near future.”

The New York Times reported Wednesday night that Mizuhara is in negotiations to plead guilty in connection to the alleged theft of Ohtani’s money.

According to an affidavit, Mizuhara wired more than $16 million of unauthorized transfers from Ohtani’s bank account from “devices and IP addresses associated with Mizuhara.”

That bank account in Arizona was opened by Ohtani with Mizuhara’s assistance in 2018. Mizuhara provided translation help while the account, which received Ohtani’s MLB salary, was set up. Ohtani said via the affidavit that he never gave Mizuhara control of his financial accounts.

Text messages showed that after Mizuhara began losing large sums of money via gambling with an illegal sports book, the contact information on Ohtani’s bank account allegedly was changed and linked to an account with Mizuhara’s phone number and to an anonymous email address connected to Mizuhara.

Mizuhara also allegedly called the bank and falsely identified himself as Ohtani in order to fool the employees into authorizing the wire transfers from Ohtani’s account to associates of the illegal gambling operation.

Mizuhara is also alleged to have purchased approximately 1,000 baseball cards via eBay and Whatnot at a cost of approximately $325,000 and had them mailed to himself under an alias and to the Dodgers’ clubhouse.

Ohtani denied authorizing the wire transfers in an interview with investigators last week and provided his cell phone to verify that he was not aware of or involved in Mizuhara’s illegal activities.

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