LA Dodgers dismissed Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter following accusations of ‘massive theft’.

LA Dodgers

The Los Angeles Dodgers’ interpreter for Shohei Ohtani found himself out of a job on Wednesday afternoon amidst unsettling allegations. Questions arose regarding significant wire transfers, totaling at least ₹4.5 million, from Ohtani’s bank account to a bookmaking operation.

Ippei Mizuhara, Ohtani’s trusted friend and interpreter, reportedly built up sizable gambling debts with a Southern California bookmaking outfit currently facing federal scrutiny. This revelation prompted his dismissal once reporters began digging into the questionable wire transfers.

Initially, a spokesperson for Ohtani disclosed that the baseball star had transferred the funds to settle Mizuhara’s gambling debts. Mizuhara corroborated this in an interview with ESPN. However, just as ESPN was set to publish the story, the spokesperson retracted Mizuhara’s account and announced that Ohtani’s legal team would issue a statement.

In a statement released by Berk Brettler LLP, Ohtani’s legal representatives stated

“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.”

The spokesperson declined further questioning, and the statement did not specify who was allegedly behind the theft.

When approached by ESPN on Wednesday afternoon and asked about accusations of theft, Mizuhara refrained from commenting as instructed.

These developments unfold alongside federal investigators’ examination of the operation headed by Southern California bookmaker Mathew Bowyer. The wire-transfer payments were reportedly sent from Ohtani’s account to an associate of Bowyer’s. Nevertheless, sources maintain that Ohtani himself does not engage in gambling activities and that the funds were intended to cover Mizuhara’s losses.

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ESPN’s review of bank records revealed two $500,000 payments bearing Shohei Ohtani’s name, made in September and October of last year.

While sports betting finds legality in nearly 40 states, California continues to prohibit it. Legal sportsbooks demand upfront payment, whereas illegal operators accept credit bets.

Insiders within the gambling circle disclosed that Mathew Bowyer, the bookmaker in question, dealt directly with Ippei Mizuhara, who placed bets on international soccer and other sports, excluding baseball, since 2021. It’s suggested that Bowyer propagated the notion that Ohtani was a client to attract more business.

Diane Bass, Bowyer’s attorney, stated unequivocally, “Mr. Bowyer never met or spoke with Shohei Ohtani,” refusing further inquiries.

In an interview facilitated by Ohtani’s spokesperson, Mizuhara admitted to requesting Ohtani to settle his gambling debt, which had ballooned to at least $4.5 million. Mizuhara explained that he had previously placed bets using DraftKings and had assumed that his wagers through Bowyer were above board.

However, Mizuhara later stated on Wednesday afternoon that Ohtani was unaware of his gambling debts and had not transferred funds to Bowyer’s associate.

Mizuhara and Ohtani share both a personal and professional relationship. Mizuhara has served as Ohtani’s interpreter since the star’s move to the U.S. in 2018, becoming a familiar face to baseball enthusiasts, aiding Ohtani in various team-related matters.

Mizuhara confirmed receiving an annual compensation ranging between $300,000 and $500,000.

Addressing his betting habits on Tuesday, Mizuhara stressed that his wagers were limited to international soccer, the NBA, the NFL, and college football, adamantly asserting that he never placed bets on baseball.

While MLB personnel are permitted to wager on sports other than baseball, engaging with illegal bookmakers or offshore platforms carries penalties.

A source within Major League Baseball admitted to being blindsided by the situation until recently and affirmed the league’s intent to gather all pertinent facts before deciding on further steps.

Federal authorities became aware of Ohtani’s wire transfers in January during their investigation into Bowyer’s illicit bookmaking enterprise.

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Bowyer’s home was raided by federal authorities in October, where various items were seized, indicating potential felony charges.

Mizuhara met Bowyer at a poker game in 2021 and started betting with him on credit later that year.

After Ohtani agreed to pay the debts, Mizuhara supervised the wire transfers, with Ohtani adding “loan” to the description field.

Mizuhara explained that Ohtani did not directly give him the money because Ohtani didn’t trust him with it, wanting to ensure it wasn’t gambled away.

Mizuhara expressed regret for his actions and stated that Ohtani had no involvement in his gambling activities.

Despite Mizuhara’s admissions, the Dodgers continued their season-opening series in South Korea. Ohtani, who recently signed a record contract with the Dodgers, remains unaffected by the situation.

Bowyer’s operation is under investigation by federal authorities, similar to a case involving former minor league baseball player Wayne Nix. Puig, a former MLB player, was also charged in connection with this case.

The repercussions of Mizuhara’s actions and the investigation into Bowyer’s operation continue to unfold.

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