Shohei Ohtani Defrauded $16 Million by Ex-Interpreter, Says DOJ

Grant Mitchell
Grant Mitchell
Baseball news


  • Ohtani was originally believed to have lost $4.5 million
  • The money was sent to an illegal bookie in California
  • Ohtani’s former interpreter faces up to 30 years behind bars

Ippezi Mizuhara, Shohei Ohtani’s former interpreter, was charged with defrauding the Los Angeles Dodgers’ two-way star of more than $16 million.

Mizuhara, 39, was originally believed to have stolen $4.5 million from his friend and longtime associate to pay off gambling debts to an illegal bookmaker based in California. However, a probe into the scandal led to the discovery of more than $16 million missing funds, the Department of Justice revealed Thursday.

Ohtani was also cleared of any wrongdoing in the scandal that rocked the baseball world when first unearthed three weeks ago.

Even more than first thought 

United States Attorney Martin Estrada said during a press conference that Mizuhara committed fraud on a “massive scale” from his friend to repay his outstanding gambling balance.

California, home to the Dodgers, is one of 12 states that have not opened their arms to legal sports betting sites such as FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM, and others.

As such, Mizuhara used a nefarious bookmaker that allowed him to place bets on a line of credit.

According to Estrada, Mizuhara stole the money to “finance his voracious appetite for illegal sports betting,” which included gambling on the NFL, NBA, college football, and international soccer.

Ohtani worked with Mizuhara when he set up his bank accounts in the past, which meant the interpreter had access to his accounts. He used that knowledge to change Ohtani’s account settings and disable notifications for wire transfers and even impersonated the Japanese slugger over the phone while talking to the bank.

Gambling winnings were also routed to Mizuhara’s personal account and never went into Ohtani’s balance.

Investigators combed through Ohtani’s cell phone and ultimately did not find any signs of involvement in the scandal. They classified him as a victim in the case and have no reason to suspect he is guilty of any illicit activity.

“There is no evidence to indicate that Mr. Ohtani authorized the over $16 million of transfers from his account to the bookmakers," Estrada said. “Our investigation has revealed that due to the position of trust that he occupied with Mr. Ohtani, Mr. Mizuhara had unique access to Mr. Ohtani's finances. Mr. Mizuhara used and abused that position of trust in order to take advantage of Mr. Ohtani.”

Ohtani responds to fraud case 

Ohtani said in a March 25 press conference that he became privy to Mizuhara’s actions while the team was in Seoul, South Korea for the MLB season opener against the San Diego Padres.

Mizuhara allegedly spoke to Ohtani after a team meeting in the clubhouse and confessed to his wrongdoings, which prompted Ohtani to inform his representatives. Mizuhara was fired by the Dodgers the same day. 

The interpreter first told investigators that Ohtani knew of his gambling habits and sent him several $500,000 payments to help him get out of debt. However, he changed that story hours later and said that Ohtani did not have any knowledge of how his money was used.

"I never bet on baseball or any other sports," Ohtani said during the press conference. “I never asked somebody to do that on my behalf and I have never went through a bookmaker to bet on sports.”

Bank fraud carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison. Tim Arango and Michael S. Schmidt of the New York Times reported that Mizuhara is working on a plea deal with the authorities that would likely reduce his time behind bars. 

Mizuhara will be represented by Michael Freedman, an ex-federal prosecutor who works with white-collar criminals.

Ohtani signed a record-breaking 10-year, $700 million contract with the Dodgers in the offseason. He hit .333 with three home runs and eight RBIs as the team went 10-5 to start the season.