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Ippei Mizuhara Charged By Federal Prosecutors With Bank Fraud; Translator Allegedly Wired More Than $15M From Ohtani’s Accounts to Pay Gambling Debts

 Leif Skodnick  |    Apr 11th, 2024 2:20pm EDT

Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Dodgers talks with interpreter Ippei Mizuhara during the exhibition game between Team Korea and Los Angeles Dodgers at Gocheok Sky Dome on March 18, 2024, in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)

Ippei Mizuhara, the former translator for Shohei Ohtani during his time with the Los Angeles Angels and Los Angeles Dodgers, has been charged with bank fraud by federal prosecutors in California.

A press release issued Thursday by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California said that Mizuhara had been charged with bank fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, for allegedly wiring more than $15 million from Ohtani’s account.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s press release, Mizuhara, 39, lives in Newport Beach, Calif., and is expected to appear in federal court soon. A copy of the criminal complaint and affidavit filed against Mizuhara is at the bottom of this story.

The former translator is charged with one count of bank fraud under 18 USC § 1344 (2), which reads, “Whoever knowingly executes, or attempts to execute, a scheme or artifice… to obtain any of the moneys, funds, credits, assets, securities, or other property owned by, or under the custody or control of, a financial institution, using false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises; shall be fined not more than $1 million or imprisoned not more than 30 years, or both.”

According to the U.S. Attorney, from “Nov. 2021 to Jan. 2024, Mizuhara wired more than $16 million in unauthorized transfers from a checking account belong to an MLB player identified in the affidavit as “Victim A,” who is MLB star Shohei Ohtani. The transfers from this bank account allegedly were made from devices and IP addresses associated with Mizuhara, who served as Ohtani’s translator and de facto manager.”

The amount the U.S. Attorney’s Office states Mizuhara wired was used to pay off gambling debts incurred in September 2021, when Ohtani played for the Los Angeles Angels.

According to an affidavit filed with the criminal complaint by federal prosecutors, Mizuhara began gambling with an illegal sports book in September 2021, and the translator rapidly lost a large amount of money. Around that time, Ohtani’s bank account information was allegedly changed and linked to Mizuhara’s phone number and an anonymous email address connected to Mizuhara.

According to the affidavit, Mizuhara messaged the bookmaker on Nov. 14, 2022, stating, “I’m terrible at this sport betting thing huh? Lol . . . Any chance u can bump me again?? As you know, you don’t have to worry about me not paying!!”

By asking to be “bumped,” Mizuhara requested the bookmaker to increase his credit line with the illegal gambling ring.

But Mizuhara kept losing and requesting bumps, according to the affidavit. Investigators gained access to the gambling ring’s records, enumerated how much Mizuhara allegedly bet, including frequencies and amounts, and totaled his losses.

Mizuhara allegedly made “approximately 19,000 wagers between December 2021 and January 2024, and nearly 25 bets per day on average. The wagers in the [gambling ring’s records] ranged in value from roughly $10 to $160,000 per bet, with an average bet amount of roughly $12,800. During this period, the 35966 Records reflect total winning bets of $142,256,769.74 and total losing bets of $182,935,206.68, leaving a total net balance of negative $40,678,436.94,” the affidavit said.

According to the affidavit, wires amounting to at least $15 million were sent from Ohtani’s account to an account used by the illegal gambling ring between February 2022 and October 2023.

On three different occasions, the translator allegedly called the bank and told them he was Ohtani to authorize the wire transfers to the illegal gambling ring.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Ohtani told federal investigators during an interview last week that he did not authorize the wire transfers. The pitcher provided his cellphone for examination, and investigators found “no evidence to suggest that Ohtani was aware of, or involved in, Mizuhara’s illegal gambling activity or payment of those debts.”

Mizuhara’s alleged theft was revealed last month when the Dodgers were in Seoul, South Korea, to open the season against the San Diego Padres. After reporters began asking about wire transfers from Ohtani’s accounts that had been uncovered in an investigation into a southern California sports gambling ring, Mizuhara told the team that he had a gambling addiction and that Ohtani had paid off his gambling debts.

According to the affidavit, Ohtani told federal investigators that he learned Mizuhara had gained access to his bank accounts on March 20 while the Dodgers were in Seoul. Mizuhara addressed the team in English, and Ohtani, only able to understand bits of what Mizuhara said, asked Mizuhara what was going on. The translator told Ohtani that the two needed to speak privately. When they returned to the team hotel, Mizuhara told Ohtani that he had incurred severe gambling debts and had taken money from Ohtani’s account to pay them off.

The Dodgers, who hired Mizuhara after signing Ohtani to a 10-year, $700 million free agent contract this past offseason, fired the translator before the club left South Korea.

As investigators and journalists approached Mizuhara, he contacted the bookmaker, asking if he had seen “the reports,” according to the affidavit.

“Yes, but that’s all bullshit. Obviously you didn’t steal from him. I understand it’s a cover job I totally get it,” the bookmaker allegedly replied.

“Technically I did steal from him. It’s all over for me,” Mizuhara allegedly replied.

A report from the New York Times Wednesday night indicated that Mizuhara was in talks with federal prosecutors to plead guilty, which could potentially spare the translator a lengthy prison sentence, as federal prosecutors and judges offer a measure of leniency to those who quickly admit wrongdoing.

“I never bet on baseball or any other sports or never have asked somebody to do that on my behalf,” Ohtani said at a press conference on April 10. “And I have never went through a bookmaker to bet on sports. Up until a couple days ago, I didn’t know this was happening.”

Filing a criminal complaint can begin a criminal case in federal court, though a defendant cannot be convicted without being indicted unless he or she pleads guilty. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has 30 days from the filing of the complaint to bring the case before a grand jury, which would hear evidence and testimony of Mizuhara’s alleged criminal conduct and vote indict him should they believe there is reasonable cause to believe that a crime has been committed.

Once the indictment is filed with the court and the defendant is arraigned, the case must go to trial within 70 days.

The New York Times reported that Mizuhara is represented by Los Angeles attorney Michael G. Freedman, a former federal prosecutor who specializes in criminal defense.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office statement, Assistant United States Attorneys Jeff Mitchell, Dan Boyle, and Rachel N. Agress are prosecuting the case.