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Is Shohei Ohtani still in trouble? Authorities say Dodgers star is 'considered a victim.'

Steve Henson, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Baseball

LOS ANGELES — When Japanese interpreter Ippei Mizuhara lost bets, he paid a bookmaker with money allegedly stolen from Shohei Ohtani, a staggering total of more than $16 million — nearly four times what previously had been reported.

But when Mizuhara won bets, federal authorities said Thursday, he stashed the cash in an account of his own — evidence that seems to support Ohtani's claims he was unaware of the gambling.

Since news broke that Ohtani accused his interpreter and former right-hand man of a massive theft, questions have lingered about whether the Dodgers superstar was aware of or involved in illegal gambling, which could jeopardize his future in baseball and potentially expose him to criminal charges if he were found to have lied to investigators.

At a news conference Thursday, federal law enforcement officials unveiled the findings of their investigation and repeatedly described Ohtani as a victim.

E. Martin Estrada, the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California, said the probe cleared Ohtani of wrongdoing. The player "cooperated fully," Estrada said, and "provided digital devices and personal information."

He said he expects Ohtani, who is in his first season with the Dodgers after six years with the Angels, to "continue to cooperate fully."

 

Mizuhara has been charged with bank fraud, a federal offense that could result in a sentence of up to 30 years in prison if he is convicted. The criminal complaint filed Thursday describes a pattern of deceitful behavior, with Mizuhara repeatedly exploiting the trust he'd built over 10 years as Ohtani's interpreter and near-constant companion.

Ohtani, meanwhile, is free to continue his assault on National League pitching as the Dodgers designated hitter. He is batting .333 with three home runs and a league-leading eight doubles. He has a seven-game hitting streak and has a hit in 13 of the Dodgers' 15 games.

Major League Baseball said it would conduct an investigation when the federal probe is complete, although that was walked back a bit Thursday. "Given the information disclosed today, and other information we have already collected, we will wait until resolution of the criminal proceeding to determine whether further investigation is warranted," the league said in a statement.

Ohtani expressed dismay over Mizuhara during a news conference March 25 at Dodger Stadium, saying his interpreter "was lying to everyone, including everyone around me."

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