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Shohei Ohtani's ex-interpreter charged with stealing $16 million from Dodgers star

Nathan Fenno, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Baseball

LOS ANGELES — Federal prosecutors have charged Ippei Mizuhara, the since-fired interpreter for Shohei Ohtani, with stealing more than $16 million from the Dodgers superstar to pay debts with an allegedly illegal bookmaker.

The U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California, E. Martin Estrada, announced the charge Thursday at a news conference in downtown Los Angeles.

"Mr. Ohtani is considered a victim in this case," Estrada said.

He said that Mizuhara impersonated Ohtani in conversations with bank officials, placed thousands of wagers and deposited winnings in a bank account the interpreter controlled.

"Mr. Mizuhara did all this to feed his insatiable appetite for illegal sports gambling," Estrada said.

Mizuhara faces a single count of bank fraud.

 

Michael Freedman, an L.A.-based criminal defense attorney, confirmed he represents Mizuhara, but has declined further comment. Mizuhara, a Diamond Bar High School graduate who has been a fixture at Ohtani's side since his first season with the Angels in 2018, did not respond to messages.

The charge is the latest twist in a saga that has transfixed the baseball world since The Los Angeles Times broke the story on March 20. The newspaper reported that Ohtani's name had surfaced in the federal investigation of Mathew Bowyer, an allegedly illegal bookmaker who lives in Orange County. Ohtani's representatives accused Mizuhara of committing "massive theft" of the ballplayer's money to place bets with Bowyer's organization.

Bowyer, whose San Juan Capistrano home was raided by federal agents in October, has not been charged with a crime.

The saga spilled into public view after several days of shifting accounts behind the scenes about the episode. The Times first requested comment from Ohtani's agent, Nez Balelo, on March 15, then Matthew Hiltzik, a New York-based crisis public relations manager, contacted the newspaper a day later on behalf of the ballplayer. The publicist eventually said Ohtani had no comment.

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