Shohei Ohtani's ex-interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, pleads guilty to fraud charges, faces up to 33 years in prison

Shohei Ohtani's former interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, pleaded guilty to bank and tax fraud charges on Tuesday in a federal court in Santa Ana, California, and faces up to 33 years in prison.

Mizuhara admitted to stealing nearly $17 million from Ohtani to pay off sports betting debts. Per The Associated Press, the bank fraud charge carries a maximum of 30 years in prison. The tax fraud charge carries up to three years in prison. Mizuhara is also required to repay Ohtani up to $17 million, in addition to more than $1 million to the IRS.

Mizuhara addressed his crimes while speaking to the court.

“I worked for victim A and had access to his bank account and had fallen into major gambling debt,” Mizuhara said. “I went ahead and wired money … with his bank account.”

Mizuhara reached a plea deal with prosecutors on May 8 before formally entering his plea Tuesday. He's scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 25. He did not speak with reporters as he left the courthouse.

Mizuhara was the longtime interpreter for Ohtani, the Japanese baseball sensation who has won two MVP awards in his six MLB seasons. Mizuhara also acted as Ohtani's financial point person when Ohtani moved to the United States in 2018.

Per the federal criminal complaint against Mizuhara, he made 19,000 sports bets with an illegal bookie from December 2021 through January 2024, with bets ranging from $10 to $160,000, with an average wager of $12,800. He averaged roughly 25 bets per day.

Ippei Mizuhara admitted to stealing nearly $17 million from Shohei Ohtani to pay off gambling debts. (Paul Bersebach/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
Ippei Mizuhara admitted to stealing nearly $17 million from Shohei Ohtani to pay off gambling debts. (Paul Bersebach/Orange County Register via Getty Images)

Records show that he won roughly $142.3 million in sports wagers and lost more than $182.9 million, adding up to a net loss of roughly $40.7 million. Mizuhara had access to Ohtani's bank accounts and stole nearly $17 million from the baseball star to pay off those debts.

News of the scandal broke in March as Ohtani prepared to play his first season with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Ohtani joined the Dodgers in the offseason after six seasons with the Los Angeles Angels.

Ohtani released a statement via a spokesperson following Mizuhara's plea.

“Now that the investigation has been completed, this full admission of guilt has brought important closure to me and my family,” the statement reads. “I want to sincerely thank the authorities for finishing their thorough and effective investigation so quickly and uncovering all of the evidence.

“This has been a uniquely challenging time, so I am especially grateful for my support team — my family, agency, lawyers and advisers along with the entire Dodgers organization, who showed endless support throughout this process. It’s time to close this chapter, move on and continue to focus on playing and winning ball games.”

The Dodgers also released a statement.

"With today's plea in the criminal proceedings against Ippei Mizuhara and the conclusion of both federal and MLB investigations, the Dodgers are pleased that Shohei and the team can put this entire matter behind them and move forward in pursuit of a World Series title," the statement reads.

MLB, meanwhile, announced the conclusion of its own investigation while exonerating Ohtani of any wrongdoing.

“Based on the thoroughness of the federal investigation that was made public, the information MLB collected, and the criminal proceeding being resolved without being contested, MLB considers Shohei Ohtani a victim of fraud and this matter has been closed,” MLB's statement statement reads.

Per the criminal complaint, Mizuhara joined Ohtani in 2018 as his interpreter at a Phoenix bank branch to help set up an account that reportedly received Ohtani's salary deposits from the Angels. Records show that the contact information on the account was changed to Mizuhara's phone number and an email address connected to Mizuhara. Transfers were subsequently made with devices using IP addresses associated with Mizuhara.

Bank records cited in the criminal complaint showed that Mizuhara called the bank twice and pretended to be Ohtani in efforts to withdraw money from the account. He reportedly successfully made the first transfer from Ohtani's account for $40,010 on Nov. 15, 2021, en route to stealing nearly $17 million.

Ohtani addressed the scandal in a March 26 statement to media, declaring that he never bet on baseball or any other sports and that he wasn't previously aware that Mizuhara had been stealing from him.

“I am very saddened and shocked someone I trusted has done this,” Ohtani said through an interpreter. "I never bet on baseball or any other sports or never have asked somebody to do that on my behalf. And I have never been through a bookmaker to bet on sports. ...

"Up until a couple days ago, I didn't know that this was happening. ... In conclusion, Ippei has been stealing money from my account and has told lies."

Authorities say that Ohtani cooperated with investigators and that there was no evidence that he was involved with or aware of Mizuhara's gambling.

In addition to his endorsement income, Ohtani earned roughly $42.3 million during his six seasons with the Angels. He joined the Dodgers in December as a free agent via a 10-year, $700 million contract.

Despite being sidelined from pitching, Ohtani is in the midst of another MVP-caliber campaign in his first season with the Dodgers. Through 58 games, he is slashing .322/.392/.596 with 14 home runs, 38 RBI and 14 stolen bases. The 38-23 Dodgers have a seven-game lead on the second-place San Diego Padres in the NL West.