BREAKING NEWS:Shohei Ohtani’s former interpreter accused of stealing $16M from the MLB star

April 22, 2024

Shohei Ohtani’s former interpreter accused of stealing $16M from the MLB star

Ippei Mizuhara, who had an “insatiable appetite for illegal sports gambling,” accessed Ohtani’s bank account online and shut out Ohtani’s agent, accountant and financial adviser from the account, federal officials said.

The former interpreter for Los Angeles Dodgers sensation Shohei Ohtani was federally charged with bank fraud Thursday, accused of stealing more than $16 million from one of Major League Baseball’s biggest stars.

Ippei Mizuhara met Ohtani, who did not know English, in 2013 and helped him set up a bank account shortly after he arrived in the U.S. in 2018, and has since acted as his de facto manager, Martin Estrada, the U.S. attorney for the Central District of California, told reporters at an afternoon news conference.

Mizuhara, 39, of Newport Beach, California, who had an “insatiable appetite for illegal sports gambling,” accessed Ohtani’s bank account online and shut out Ohtani’s agent, accountant and financial adviser from the account, allowing him to commit “fraud on a massive scale,” Estrada said.

Shohei Ohtani, right, and his interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, watch the Dodgers’ season opener against the San Diego Padres in Seoul, South Korea, on March 20.Kyodo via AP file

“I want to emphasize this point: Mr. Ohtani is considered a victim in this case. There is no evidence to indicate that Mr. Ohtani authorized the over $16 million of transfers from his account to the bookmakers,” he said.

Estrada added: “Mr. Ohtani has cooperated fully and completely in this investigation. He’s not only spoken to investigators; he’s provided access to his digital devices, to his personal information, to ensure that justice was done.”

Mizuhara’s attorney and representatives for Ohtani and the Dodgers declined to comment Thursday.

Mizuhara has agreed to surrender to federal authorities Friday. He will appear in federal district court that afternoon.

19,000 bets in two years

Mizuhara, who did not bet on baseball, is “linked to an illegal gambling operation,” Estrada said.

From November 2021 to January 2024, Mizuhara wired more than $16 million in unauthorized transfers from a checking account belonging to Ohtani, according to an affidavit filed with a criminal complaint. The transfers from the bank account were made from devices and IP addresses associated with Mizuhara, federal prosecutors said in a statement.

In September 2021, Mizuhara began gambling with an illegal sports book and, months later, started losing large sums of money, prosecutors said.

Mizuhara is accused of making 19,000 bets that ranged in value from $10 to $160,000 per bet from December 2021 to January 2024, the affidavit said.

Mizuhara’s winning bets totaled more than $142,256,000 and losing bets of about $182,935,000. His total losses amounted to more than $40,679,000, the affidavit said.

More on the betting scandal

Shohei Ohtani says his interpreter stole money from his account and ‘told lies’

Who is Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara? Everything we know

How Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter scandal could affeact the Dodgers star — and MLB

MLB opens investigation after allegations that Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter was involved in gambling scandal

During this time, the contact information on Ohtani’s bank account allegedly was changed to link the account to Mizuhara’s phone number and to an anonymous email address connected to Mizuhara, prosecutors said.

He also called the bank and identified himself as Ohtani to fool employees into authorizing wire transfers from the account to people linked to the illegal gambling operation, prosecutors said.

The maximum penalty for being convicted of bank fraud is 30 years in prison.

Probe has led to charges or convictions for 12 others

A person identified only as “Bookmaker 1” in the affidavit, who oversaw an illegal sports book Mizuhara used to gamble, is a target of the investigation, the affidavit said.

A source in Bookmaker 1’s organization is cooperating with investigators, the affidavit said, and has provided evidence of Mizuhara’s gambling history.

The probe into illegal gambling has led to charges or criminal convictions of 12 defendants and a money service business and nonprosecution agreements with two Las Vegas casinos. The investigation is ongoing, the affidavit said.

The Dodgers fired Mizuhara on March 21 after Ohtani’s attorneys alleged “massive theft” from him tied to sports gambling.


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Major League Baseball opened an investigation. Ohtani, in his first public comments in the matter, said on March 25 that he had been betrayed and lied to, and he denied any involvement in sports betting.

Mizuhara was not only Ohtani’s interpreter but also a close friend and constant presence beside him.

“I’m very saddened and shocked that someone who I trusted has done this,” Ohtani said at a news conference in Los Angeles last month.

“Ippei has been stealing money from my account and has told lies,” he said in Japanese with the help of a different interpreter.

The scandal came to light after reports by the Los Angeles Times and ESPN.

The allegations against Mizuhara centered specifically on wire transfers from Ohtani’s account — totaling at least $4.5 million, made in at least nine payments of $500,000 — to a bookmaking operation in Southern California that is under federal investigation, a person familiar with Ohtani and Mizuhara’s interactions has told NBC News.

Attorneys for Ohtani at the law firm Berk Brettler LLP said in a statement at the time the allegations came to light: “In the course of responding to recent media inquiries, we discovered that Shohei has been the victim of a massive theft and we are turning the matter over to the authorities.”

Ohtani, 29, came to the U.S. in 2018 to play for the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim. In December he went to the Dodgers in a $700 million, 10-year deal.

Andrew Blankstein

Andrew Blankstein is an investigative reporter for NBC News. He covers the Western U.S., specializing in crime, courts and homeland security. 

Diana Dasrath

Diana Dasrath is entertainment producer and senior reporter for NBC News covering all platforms.

Antonio Planas

Antonio Planas is a breaking news reporter for NBC News Digital. 

Phil Helsel

Phil Helsel is a reporter for NBC News.