MLB opens investigation after allegations that Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter was involved in gambling scandal

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“The Dodgers are aware of media reports and are gathering information. The team can confirm that interpreter Ippei Mizuhara has been terminated. The team has no further comment at this time,” a statement from the team released early Thursday said.

The scandal was first reported Wednesday by The Los Angeles Times and ESPN. According to ESPN, the interpreter’s firing came after questions from the media about his alleged ties to illegal gambling.

The allegations against Mizuhara centered specifically on wire transfers from Ohtani’s account — totaling at least $4.5 million, made in at least nine payments of $500,000 — to a bookmaking operation in Southern California that is currently under federal investigation and which was allegedly run by Matthew Bowyer of Orange County, California, a person familiar with Ohtani and Mizuhara’s interactions told NBC News.

Those wire transfers were sent from Ohtani’s account to an associate of Bowyer’s, the person said.

At first, the person said Mizuhara told Ohtani’s personal team that he had been gambling and racked up a large amount of debt, prompting him to ask Ohtani to bail him out.

Mizuhara reportedly said at the time that Ohtani was upset and angry with him because the two-way star hates betting, but that he ultimately agreed to pay the debts as long as Mizuhara never gambled again, according to the person familiar.

On Wednesday, after the Dodgers faced the San Diego Padres in a season opener in Seoul, the person said Mizuhara told the team to expect media reports on his gambling.

The source said Ohtani understood enough of Mizuhara’s announcement to know he was referring to something about gambling and pushed his interpreter for more information.

As media inquiries rolled in, Mizuhara changed his story, the person said, and admitted to Ohtani’s agent and representatives that the original story was a lie.

Instead, Mizuhara said Ohtani had no knowledge of his gambling or his debts. Mizuhara allegedly stole the massive sum from Ohtani, according to the source, authorizing the wire transfers from Ohtani’s account to the associate in the bookmaking operation over a period of time last year without Ohtani’s participation or knowledge.

Authorities have officially been informed, the source said, without specifying further.

NBC News has reached out to Mizuhara seeking comment about the allegations.

The pair first met in Japan in 2013, when Mizuhara was serving as an interpreter for the Hokkaidō Nippon-Ham Fighters of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league. Ohtani joined the team as a rookie in 2013, Nippon.com reported. 

When Ohtani signed with the Los Angeles Angels in 2017, he brought Mizuhara with him as his personal interpreter.

Mizuhara became more than an interpreter to Ohtani over the years, according to the person familiar with their interactions. He was considered a longtime friend of Ohtani’s and served as a gatekeeper for the baseball star.

The LA Dodgers face the St. Louis Cardinals in their next regular season game on March 28.



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