Shohei Ohtani’s translator stole more than $16 million, federal prosecutors say

LOS ANGELES — The translator for Shohei Ohtani is facing federal charges after authorities said he stole $16 million from the baseball star’s bank account to fund his gambling addiction.

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Authorities have charged 39-year-old Ippei Mizuhara with bank fraud, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California announced Thursday. Officials said he made unauthorized transfers from Ohtani’s bank account from November 2021 to January 2024.

Mizuhara worked as a translator for Ohtani, who is originally from Japan, and served as his de-facto manager. Ohtani told investigators that he never allowed Mizuhara to use his bank account, in which went his salary from playing professional baseball.

Authorities said they linked unauthorized transfers to devices and IP addresses associated with Mizuhara.

The funds were used to pay off a California bookmaking operation after Mizuhara began gambling with an illegal sports book in September 2021, authorities said. Several months after he started gambling, he “started losing substantial sums of money,” according to prosecutors. Around that time, Mizuhara’s phone number and an email address connected with him were linked to Ohtani’s bank account, officials said.

Authorities said Mizuhara also used about $325,000 of Ohtani’s money to buy baseball cards off eBay and Whatnot.

“Our investigation has revealed that due to the position of trust he occupied with Mr. Ohtani, Mr. Mizuhara had unique access to Mr. Ohtani’s finances,” U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada said, according to CNN. “Mr. Mizuhara used and abused that position of trust in order to take advantage of Mr. Ohtani.”

Prosecutors said they do not consider Ohtani to be part of the scheme, and they have found no evidence linking him to the transfers or to Mizuhara’s gambling.

The Los Angeles Dodgers signed Ohtani on a 10-year, $700 million contract in December, making him the highest-paid player in MLB history. Mizuhara, who has been interpreting for Ohtani since the baseball star came to the U.S. in 2017, was fired by the Dodgers last month, The Associated Press reported.

In March, Ohtani told reporters that he never bet on sports, saying at a news conference, “Ippei has been stealing money from my account and has been telling lies.”

He said he had not known the theft was happening, adding that he was “very saddened and shocked someone whom I trusted has done this.”

If convicted, Mizuhara could face a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. Citing unidentified sources, The New York Times reported that Mizuhara was in negotiations Wednesday to plead guilty to charges.

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