Shohei Ohtani says his interpreter stole money from his account and ‘told lies’


Los Angeles Dodgers superstar Shohei Ohtani on Monday vehemently denied any involvement in the sports betting scandal surrounding his former interpreter, breaking his silence on the situation and painting a picture of betrayal.

Ippei Mizuhara, 39, was fired last week as Ohtani’s translator after attorneys for the Japanese phenom said he was the victim of a “massive theft.” The IRS is conducting a criminal investigation of Mizuhara and Major League Baseball is conducting its own internal probe.

“I’m very saddened and shocked that someone who I trusted has done this,” Ohtani said Monday.

The pitcher, appearing in a Dodgers sweatshirt and cap, expressed disappointment with his former interpreter, whom he blamed for the controversy that includes allegations Mizuhara stole money from Ohtani to place bets with a bookie.

More on the Ohtani betting scandal

“Ippei has been stealing money from my account and has told lies,” Ohtani said in Japanese with the help of a different interpreter.

He vowed that he did not bet on any sports, did not ask anyone to do it for him and said he “never went through a bookmaker to bet on sports.”

Mizuhara met Ohtani when he went to Japan to work as an interpreter for the Hokkaidō Nippon-Ham Fighters of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league, Nippon.com reported. Ohtani had joined the team as a rookie in 2013.

When Ohtani, already on the rise as a coveted two-way player who excelled at pitching and hitting, signed with the Los Angeles Angels in 2017, he brought Mizuhara along with him.

The scandal was first reported Wednesday by The Los Angeles Times and ESPN.

Shohei Ohtani and interpreter Ippei Mizuhara
Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani and interpreter Ippei Mizuhara during a baseball news conference at Dodger Stadium on Dec. 14, 2023, in Los Angeles.Ashley Landis / AP file

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.

The person familiar with the interpreter’s interactions with Ohtani said at first Mizuhara told the pitcher’s representatives that he had been gambling and racked up a large amount of debt, prompting him to ask Ohtani to bail him out.

The pitcher said this version of events — that he was ever asked to bail out the interpreter — was untrue. “Up until a couple days ago, I didn’t know that this was happening,” Ohtani said.

The pitcher said Mizuhara ultimately admitted to him he sent money from his account to a bookmaker.

Mizuhara did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday and has not answered past NBC News requests.

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.

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.

Shohei Ohtani
Shohei Ohtani in the dugout during the MLB Spring Training game between the Los Angeles Angels and Dodgers on Sunday at Dodger Stadium.Brian Rothmuller / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Ohtani said Monday that he first learned of the situation during a team meeting in South Korea last week as the Dodgers opened the MLB season with a two-game series. He said he was unaware Mizuhara had a gambling addiction and was in debt.

“I never agreed to pay off the debt or make payments to the bookmaker,” Ohtani said at the news conference.

His recounting of events Monday paralleled reports that Mizuhara was fired after reporters had questions about his name coming up in a federal investigation of illegal gambling.

Major League Baseball has opened its own investigation of the matter. The Internal Revenue Service has confirmed that Mizuhara and Bowyer are under criminal investigation.

Bowyer’s attorney, Diane Bass, said Bowyer’s home was searched by the IRS, Homeland Security, and FBI agents in October as part of an investigation. No charges have been filed, she said, and his team was discussing a possible plea agreement with federal authorities.

Bass said, “Boyer has never had any contact with Shohei Ohtani. He has never met him he has never spoken with him.”

The attorney said Bowyer first noticed Ohtani’s funds were possibly involved when a wire transfer with his name on it was remitted. A subject line stated, “loan,” she said.

Still, Bass noted, it was quite possible Ohtani was unaware. “That’s the big question,” she said.

She described Mizuhara as a bookmaking client of Bowyer’s for a two-year period that ended in 2024. “It was Matthew Bowyer’s understanding Mizuhara was his client, no one else,” Bass said.

She added, “Mr. Mizuhara was placing bets mostly on international soccer and occasionally basketball and football, but never baseball.”

MLB prohibits players and employees from placing bets on baseball and from wagering with illegal or offshore bookmakers. Consequences are largely left to team management. 

Ohtani said Monday his statements were limited by legal considerations, but he expressed that it was difficult for him to put his emotions into words.

“It’s really hard to verbalize how I’m feeling at this point,” he said.




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