Ohtani Interpreter Accused of Stealing $16m From Baseball Star

Photo: Instagram/Shohei Ohtani

US officials have charged Shohei Ohtani's long-time interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, with stealing millions from the baseball sensation.

The lead prosecutor in California accused Mizuhara of impersonating Ohtani to banks and for placing wagers. "Mr Ohtani is considered a victim in this case," US Attorney Martin Estrada stated at a news conference in Los Angeles.

Mizuhara, 39, was dismissed last month after allegations of theft surfaced. Prosecutors claim he used Ohtani's money for betting and deposited winnings into his own account, totaling over $16m between November 2021 and January 2024. "Mizuhara did all this to feed his insatiable appetite for illegal sports gambling," said Estrada.

Photo: Instagram/Shohei Ohtani

The charging document alleges Mizuhara took advantage of Ohtani's language barrier by impersonating him to authorize unauthorized transfers. Additionally, Mizuhara allegedly purchased $325,000 in baseball cards with Ohtani's funds between January and March 2024.

A defense lawyer representing Mizuhara declined to comment, while Ohtani denied giving Mizuhara access to his finances during an interview with prosecutors last week. The criminal charge of bank fraud carries a 30-year sentence. Mizuhara is reportedly negotiating a plea deal with prosecutors.

Although sports betting is legal in 38 states, it remains illegal in California. Major League Baseball prohibits betting on games and engaging with illegal bookmakers. There's no evidence that Mizuhara placed bets on baseball games, according to Estrada.

Ohtani, who signed a record-breaking contract with the Dodgers, has been in the US since 2018, with Mizuhara as a constant companion. Mizuhara's wife and he were recently photographed with Ohtani's wife, Mamiko Tanaka, after weeks of speculation.

Ohtani expressed shock and sadness over Mizuhara's actions, stating, "Ippei has been stealing money from my account and has told lies."

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Source: BBC

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