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Judge in sports betting case orders ex-interpreter for Ohtani to get gambling addiction treatment

 The Associated Press  |    Apr 12th, 2024 5:19pm EDT

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A federal judge on Friday ordered the former longtime interpreter for Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani released on $25,000 bond and mandated he undergo gambling addiction treatment.

Ippei Mizuhara exploited his personal and professional relationship with Ohtani to plunder $16 million from the two-way player’s bank account for years, prosecutors said, at times impersonating Ohtani to bankers so he could cover his bets and debts.

Mizuhara only spoke on Friday to answer the judge’s questions, saying “yes” when she asked if he understood several parts of the case and his bond conditions.

Mizuhara, wearing a dark suit and a white collared shirt, entered the courtroom with his ankles shackled, but was not handcuffed. The judge approved his attorney’s request to remove the shackles.

Mizuhara turned himself in Friday ahead of his initial court appearance. He is charged with one count of bank fraud and faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted.

Other bond conditions stipulate that Mizuhara cannot gamble, either electronically or in-person, or go inside any gambling establishments, or associate with any known bookmakers.

Mizuhara is also prohibited from contacting any victim or witness in the case in any form. He is scheduled to be arraigned on May 9.

The hearing lasted about 10 minutes inside a courtroom packed with press, much of it Japanese media.

The unsecured $25,000 bond, also colloquially known as a signature bond, means that Mizuhara did not have to put up any cash or collateral to be released. If he violates the conditions of his bond, then he will be on the hook for $25,000.

His attorney, Michael G. Freedman, told the judge that his client already planned to undergo gambling addiction treatment.

Prosecutors said there was no evidence that Ohtani was involved in or aware of Mizuhara’s gambling, and authorities said Ohtani is cooperating with investigators.

Mizuhara was not asked to enter a plea during Friday’s brief court appearance in downtown Los Angeles. A criminal complaint, filed Thursday, detailed the alleged scheme through evidence that included text messages, financial records and recordings of phone calls.

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

In a message to his illegal bookmaker on March 20, the day the Los Angeles Times and ESPN broke the news of the federal investigation, Mizuhara wrote: “Technically I did steal from him. it’s all over for me.”

Major League Baseball opened its own investigation after the controversy surfaced, and the Dodgers immediately fired Mizuhara.

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The Associated Press