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Japanese interpreter accused of embezzling $16 million from MLB star Shohei Ohtani

Former interpreter for Japanese baseball sensation Shohei Ohtani faces charges of bank fraud in federal court, accused of embezzling $16 million from the Los Angeles Dodgers’ pitcher to cover gambling debts.

According to court documents filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, Ippei Mizuhara allegedly siphoned the money from an account belonging to Ohtani, which Mizuhara had assisted in establishing. The funds were then allegedly transferred without Ohtani’s knowledge to an illegal sports gambling operation.

U.S. Attorney E. Martin Estrada, addressing reporters at a news conference, emphasized that there was no indication of wrongdoing by Ohtani. He stated, “Mr. Ohtani was a victim in this case. There’s no evidence to indicate that Mr. Ohtani authorized the over $16 million in transfers from his account to the bookmakers.”

The potential scandal, reminiscent of Pete Rose’s gambling controversy, was averted, sparing the Dodgers and Major League Baseball from turmoil. Ohtani, who recently signed a record-breaking $700 million contract with the Dodgers, denied involvement in betting on baseball or making payments to bookmakers.

Mizuhara, 39, has agreed to surrender to federal authorities and is set to appear in court. If convicted of bank fraud, he could face up to 30 years in prison. Mizuhara’s attorney declined to comment on the charge.

Court documents allege that Mizuhara resorted to impersonating Ohtani to authorize wire transfers from the player’s account to cover gambling losses. Despite being Ohtani’s interpreter for six seasons with the Los Angeles Angels, Mizuhara was terminated by the Dodgers in March.

In a press conference, Ohtani expressed his dismay at Mizuhara’s actions, revealing that the former interpreter had confessed to him about using his account for payments. Estrada stated that an extensive review of communications between Ohtani and Mizuhara found no discussions about betting or transferring funds to bookmakers.

The investigation into Mizuhara’s activities emerged from a broader probe by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Homeland Security into illegal sports gambling operations in Southern California.

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