Reports: Ohtani Cleared by Feds in Gambling Scandal

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LOS ANGELES—Federal investigators have determined that Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani had no involvement in his former interpreter’s gambling addiction and did not engage in any gambling activity of his own, while Ippei Mizuhara was charged with federal bank fraud April 11 for allegedly stealing more than $16 million from the slugger’s bank account, according to media reports.

Citing unnamed law enforcement sources, TMZ Sports reported Wednesday night that investigators have determined that Mr. Ohtani was a victim in the scheme.

Mr. Mizuhara, his former interpreter, could face up to 30 years in federal prison if convicted of the charge. A date has not yet been set for him to appear in court.

Mr. Mizuhara initially said last month that Mr. Ohtani agreed to provide the money to cover the interpreter’s gambling debts, but he later retracted that statement and said the Dodger star was unaware of his activities.

At a news conference last month, Mr. Ohtani denied any knowledge of Mr. Mizuhara’s activities. He also vehemently denied that he was involved in any gambling activity.

“I never bet on baseball or any other sports or never have asked somebody to bet on my behalf,” he insisted.

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Mr. Ohtani said Mr. Mizuhara “has been stealing money from my account and has told lies.”

Mr. Ohtani’s attorneys issued a statement last month saying he had been the victim of a “massive theft.”

U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada said Mr. Mizuhara had unique access to Mr. Ohtani and his personal affairs due to his relationship with the slugger, for whom he worked as an interpreter since Mr. Ohtani joined the Angels organization six years ago. In that capacity, he helped Mr. Ohtani set up his bank accounts, so he knew how to access them without Mr. Ohtani’s knowledge, Mr. Estrada said.

According to various reports, wire transfers were made from Mr. Ohtani’s bank account to an illegal bookmaking operation allegedly run by Orange County resident Mathew Bowyer, who is under federal investigation.

Mr. Bowyer’s San Juan Capistrano home was searched by federal agents last year.

During an ESPN interview last month that was later disavowed by a Mr. Ohtani spokesman, Mr. Mizuhara, 39, said he asked Mr. Ohtani last year to pay off his gambling debts, and Mr. Ohtani, while unhappy about it, agreed to do so. Mr. Mizuhara told the network that Mr. Ohtani had no involvement in any betting, and the interpreter insisted that he didn’t realize his betting activities were illegal in California. He also said he never bet on any baseball games.

The next day, however, Mr. Mizuhara recanted his comments, telling ESPN that Mr. Ohtani had no knowledge of his gambling debts and denying that Mr. Ohtani had transferred any money to the bookmaking operation.

At his subsequent news conference at Dodger Stadium, Mr. Ohtani—speaking through a new interpreter—said he knew nothing of Mr. Mizuhara’s gambling addiction or the debts until Mr. Mizuhara spoke to the team last month in the clubhouse while the Dodgers were playing in Korea. Mr. Ohtani noted that since Mr. Mizuhara was speaking English during the meeting, he didn’t have a translator, “but I kind of understood what was going on and started to realize something was amiss.”

“Up until that team meeting, I didn’t know that Ippei had a gambling addiction and was in debt,” Mr. Ohtani said.

But he stressed, “I never agreed to pay off the debt or make payments to the bookmaker.”

Mr. Ohtani said he spoke privately to Mr. Mizuhara at the team hotel that night.

“And it was revealed to me during that meeting that Ippei admitted that he was sending money using my account to a bookmaker,” he said.

A video screen displays Los Angeles Dodgers' Shohei Ohtani (R) and interpreter Will Ireton during a news conference at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on March 25, 2024. (Jae C. Hong/AP Photo)
A video screen displays Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani (R) and interpreter Will Ireton during a news conference at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on March 25, 2024. (Jae C. Hong/AP Photo)

He said he immediately informed his representatives and the team. The Dodgers quickly fired Mr. Mizuhara.

“To summarize how I’m feeling right now, I’m just beyond shocked,” Mr. Ohtani said. “It’s really hard to verbalize how I’m feeling at this point.”

“The season’s going to start, so I’m going to obviously let my lawyers handle matters from here on out, and I am completely assisting in all investigations that are taking place right now,” he said. “I’m looking forward to focusing on the season.”

He again stressed, “I do want to make it clear that I never bet on sports or willfully sent money to the bookmaker.”

Major League Baseball has opened a formal investigation of its own into the matter.

Mr. Ohtani signed a $700 million contract with the Dodgers during the offseason after six years with the Angels.

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