June 15, 2024

Ippei Mizuhara, Shohei Ohtani’s ex-interpreter, pleads guilty to fraud

SANTA ANA, Calif. — Ippei Mizuhara, Shohei Ohtani’s former interpreter embroiled in a betting scandal in which he was accused of taking millions from the baseball star, pleaded guilty in federal court on Tuesday to charges of bank and tax fraud.

Mizuhara pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison, and one count of submitting a false tax return, which carries a maximum sentence of three years in federal prison.

The date for his sentencing is set for Oct. 25 at 5 p.m. ET.

The DOJ said in a plea agreement announced May 8 that it would recommend a reduced sentence if Mizuhara “demonstrates an acceptance of responsibility.” The plea agreement stated it was expected Mizuhara would almost certainly be deported to Japan, where he was born. The judge will ultimately make the final sentencing determination.

Mizuhara, 39, was fired by the Dodgers on March 21 amid news reports that at least $4.5 million was wired from Ohtani’s accounts to an alleged illegal bookmaker, Mathew Bowyer. Ohtani accused Mizuhara of “massive theft,” alleging that Mizuhara had taken the money without his knowledge. Federal authorities charged Mizuhara with bank fraud on April 11, releasing a 37-page affidavit outlining how the former interpreter gained access to Ohtani’s accounts and used the money to “feed his insatiable appetite for illegal sports betting,” U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada said.

Ultimately, authorities said that Mizuhara took almost $17 million from Ohtani.

Mizuhara had worked for Ohtani since the player’s arrival in the United States in 2018, when Ohtani hired Mizuhara as his de facto manager and interpreter, according to court documents. Their relationship spanned longer than that, as Mizuhara worked for the Nippon-Ham Fighters of NPB when Ohtani played professionally in Japan from 2013 to 2017. The investigation unearthed no evidence that Ohtani teamed with Mizuhara to place bets, nor that Mizuhara had placed any bets on baseball, prosecutors said.

Mizuhara pleaded not guilty to bank and tax fraud charges on May 14, a formality ahead of the plea deal negotiated with federal prosecutors, Mizuhara’s attorney, Michael Freedman, said.

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(Photo: Frederic J. Brown / Getty Images)