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Ippei Mizuhara Makes First Court Appearance, Released On $25K Bond

 Leif Skodnick  |    Apr 12th, 2024 3:44pm 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 of the Los Angeles Dodgers, surrendered to federal authorities in Los Angeles and appeared in court Friday afternoon.

Mizuhara, 33, was formally charged with bank fraud by federal prosecutors in the Central District of California on Thursday. After appearing in federal court in Los Angeles, Mizuhara was released on a $25,000 bond, and cannot leave the Central District of California without permission, according to Sam Blum of The Athletic.

Blum reported that Mizuhara did not enter a plea and will be arraigned on May 9 at 11:30 a.m. PDT.

According to an affidavit filed in federal court Thursday, Mizuhara allegedly gained access to Ohtani’s bank account and wired over $16 million to an illegal gambling ring to pay off losses incurred gambling on sports. The affidavit said that despite winning around $142 million in bets, Mizuhara’s gambling habit ran at a loss and that he was over $40 million in debt to an illegal bookmaking operation that is under federal investigation.

The federal bank fraud charge carries a maximum penalty of 30 years imprisonment and a $1 million fine.

A copy of the criminal complaint and affidavit filed against Mizuhara is at the bottom of this story.

Investigators told the court that 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.

The investigation into the gambling ring uncovered the wires from Ohtani’s accounts. Federal agents gained access to the gambling ring’s records, allowing them to enumerate how much Mizuhara allegedly bet, including frequencies and amounts, and total 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 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 $16.5 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 hired Mizuhara after signing Ohtani to a 10-year, $700 million free agent contract this past offseason. However, the club fired the translator before it left South Korea.

“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.”

The New York Times reported Wednesday night that Mizuhara is represented by Los Angeles attorney Michael G. Freedman, a former federal prosecutor specializing 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.