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Shohei Ohtani’s ex-interpreter will plead guilty in a betting case

Shohei Ohtani, right, and Ippei Mizuhara Christian Petersen/Getty Images

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The former interpreter for Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani has agreed to plead guilty to bank and tax fraud in a sports betting case in which prosecutors allege he stole nearly $17 million from the Japanese baseball player to pay off debts. Federal prosecutors said this on Wednesday.

The Ippei Mizuhara scandal shocked baseball fans from the US to Japan when the news broke in March.

Mizuhara will plead guilty to one count of bank fraud and one count of filing a false tax return, the U.S. Department of Justice announced. The bank fraud charge carries a maximum prison sentence of 30 years, while the false tax return charge carries a maximum prison sentence of three years.

The settlement says Mizuhara will be obligated to pay Ohtani restitution that could total nearly $17 million, as well as more than $1 million to the IRS. These amounts may change prior to sentencing.

Mizuhara will enter his guilty plea in the coming weeks and will be arraigned on May 14, prosecutors said.

“The magnitude of this defendant’s deception and theft is enormous,” United States Attorney Martin Estrada said in a statement. “He abused his position of trust to take advantage of Mr. Ohtani and fuel a dangerous gambling habit.”

Mizuhara took advantage of his personal and professional relationship with Ohtani to plunder millions from the two-way player’s account for years, sometimes posing as Ohtani to bankers, prosecutors said. Mizuhara’s winning bets totaled more than $142 million, which he deposited into his own bank account and not Ohtani’s. But his losing bets amounted to about $183 million, a net loss of almost $41 million. He didn’t bet on baseball.

Mizuhara helped Ohtani open a bank account in 2018 and began stealing money from that account in 2021, according to the settlement. At some point, Mizuhara changed the associated security protocols, email address and phone number so that calls went directly to him and not to Ohtani when the bank tried to verify wire transfers. According to the agreement, Mizuhara impersonated Ohtani at the bank approximately 24 times.

Mizuhara also admitted to falsifying his 2022 tax returns by underreporting his income by more than $4 million.

Mizuhara’s attorney, Michael G. Freedman, did not comment on the deal Wednesday.

There was no evidence that Ohtani was involved or aware of Mizuhara’s gambling, and the player is cooperating with investigators, authorities said.

The Los Angeles Times and ESPN broke news of the accuser in late March, prompting the Dodgers to fire the interpreter and MLB to open its own investigation.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he had no comment on the plea deal Wednesday, adding, “I just hope this provides more closure to the situation.”

MLB rules prohibit players and team employees from betting on baseball, even legally. MLB also prohibits betting on other sports with illegal or offshore bookmakers.

Mizuhara was released on a $25,000 unsecured bond, colloquially known as a signature bond, meaning he did not have to post any cash or collateral to be released. If he violates the terms of the bond — including the requirement to undergo gambling addiction treatment — he will have to pay $25,000.

Ohtani has tried to focus on the field as the case winds through the courts. Hours after his former interpreter made his first appearance in court in April, he hit his 175th MLB home run, tying Hideki Matsui for the most by a Japanese-born player, during the 8-7 loss of the Dodgers vs. the San Diego Padres in 11 games. innings.