Shohei Ohtani’s ex-interpreter expected to enter guilty plea – NBC Los Angeles

What to Know

  • Ippei Mizuhara, 39, agreed to plea guilty to one count of bank fraud and one count of subscribing to a false tax return as part of a deal with prosecutors.
  • The former interpreter for Shohei Ohtani could face up to 30 years in federal prison under the plea deal.
  • The investigation into Mizuhara’s sports betting was part of a larger probe involving illegal gambling operations.

Shohei Ohtani’s former interpreter is expected to plead guilty Tuesday to bank and tax fraud in a sport betting scandal in which he is accused of stealing nearly $17 million from the Los Angeles Dodgers star over several years.

Ippei Mizuhara is scheduled to appear Tuesday morning in federal court in Orange County for the change-of-plea hearing. The hearing comes about a month after prosecutors and Mizuhara, a long-time friend of Ohtani’s, reached a plea agreement as part of a broader federal sports gambling investigation.

The 39-year-old Newport Beach resident is expected to plead guilty to one count of bank fraud and one count of subscribing to a false tax return. The bank fraud charge has a maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison. Mizuhara faces a maximum sentence of up to three years in federal prison for the false tax return charge.

“The interpreter is going to get a huge break, assuming he comes through with cooperation with the feds,” said NBCLA legal analyst Royal Oakes. “This guy is not a big fish, but he’s going to flip if he helps the prosecution. That means, they’re going to reward him with a very light sentence.”

Sentencing and restitution proceedings have not been scheduled.

Prosecutors accused Mizuhara of placing a staggering number of bets using money stolen from a long-time friend and one of the world’s most popular and well-paid athletes to support a “voracious appetite” for sports betting. The allegations against the Orange County man were outlined in a lengthy criminal complaint in support of federal bank fraud charge.

A day after the federal charges were announced in April, Mizuhara apologized to Ohtani in a statement made through his attorney that indicated a deal was likely. Attorney Michael G. Freedman issued the statement, saying Mizuhara hopes to “reach an agreement with the government to resolve this case as quickly as possible so that he can take responsibility.” He further added Mizuhara “wishes to apologize to Mr. Ohtani, the Dodgers, Major League Baseball, and his family.”

According to the criminal complaint filed in the gambling scandal, Mizuhara placed about 19,000 wagers between December 2021 and January 2024 with nearly 25 bets per day on average. The wagers ranged in value from roughly $10 to $160,000 per bet, with an average bet amount of roughly $12,800.

Mizuhara’s winning bets totaled more than $142,256,000 and losing bets about $182,935,000. Total losses amounted to more than $40,679,000, the affidavit said.

The complaint, written by an IRS senior special agent, cites wire transfers, text messages, phone records and interviews. In a text message to a bookmaker, Mizuhara admitted that he was stealing the money from Ohtani’s account, prosecutors said. The investigation into Mizuhara was part of a larger probe involving illegal gambling operations.

Authorities announced federal charges against Ippei Mizuhara who allegedly helped set up a bank account for Shohei Ohtani in 2018. NBC Los Angeles’ Karma Dickerson reports.

Prosecutors have said there is no evidence Ohtani authorized the transfers from his account and characterized the baseball superstar as a victim in the case. Ohtani reportedly has been assisting authorities with the investigation.

The records do not indicate any bets on baseball.

The scandal broke in mid-March after Mizuhara was fired for an alleged theft from Ohtani’s bank accounts to cover illegal gambling losses. Those gambling debts were to an illegal bookmaker in Orange County who was under IRS investigation.

According to prosecutors, Mizuhara accompanied Ohtani to a bank branch in Arizona when they opened the account in 2018, with Mizuhara translating for Ohtani to set up the account. Ohtani’s salary was deposited into the account, prosecutors said, and he never gave Mizuhara control of the account or any of his other financial accounts, according to the affidavit.

Investigators believe Ohtani’s earnings from endorsement deals and investments went to a different account.

Mizuhara later identified himself as Ohtani in communications with the bank, which allowed him to lift an online banking suspension on the account.

Mizuhara began gambling with an illegal sportsbook in 2021, according to prosecutors. Months later, he started losing “substantial” amounts of money and, at about the same time, contact information on Ohtani’s bank account was changed to link it to Mizuhara’s phone number and an anonymous email, prosecutors said.

Mizuhara told ESPN on March 19 that Ohtani paid his gambling debts at the interpreter’s request, saying the bets were on international soccer, the NBA, the NFL and college football. But the following day, ESPN said Mizuhara dramatically changed his story, claiming Ohtani had no knowledge of the gambling debts and had not transferred any money to bookmakers.

Ohtani and his attorneys have maintained that he was completely unaware of the “massive theft” until the news came to light last month when the Dodgers were opening the season in South Korea against the San Diego Padres.

Major League Baseball launched its own investigation concurrent to the federal one by the IRS.

If you or someone you know has a gambling addiction, please call the National Council on Problem Gambling at 1-800-522-4700 to speak to a counselor. Help is also available via an online peer support forum at, and additional resources can be found at NCPG website.

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