Shohei Ohtani’s Interpreter to Plead Guilty to Stealing From MLB Star

Reuters/Kirby Lee
Reuters/Kirby Lee

The embattled ex-interpreter for Shohei Ohtani is expected to plead guilty to bank fraud and false tax return charges next week, accepting blame for the bombshell scandal that saw him accused him of stealing millions from baseball’s biggest star.

Those in Ohtani’s camp accused Ippei Mizuhara, once spotted smiling alongside Ohtani nearly daily, of using the stolen funds to place thousands of illegal bets on everything from college soccer to the NFL.

Mizuhara, who prosecutors said was Ohtani’s “de facto manager” in addition to translating Japanese and English, is expected to officially enter a guilty plea guilty on May 14 during a scheduled arraignment, the Department of Justice announced.

Mizuhara could spend as many as 33 years in prison, five years on supervised release, and be fined as much as $1,250,000 for the charges, but a federal judge in California is expected to sentence him well below the maximum for cooperating with prosecutors.

Shohei Ohtani’s Interpreter Surrenders to Authorities on Bank Fraud Charges

Once his plea is official, Mizuhara will be on the hook to pay back both Ohtani and the IRS for the funds he allegedly stole from them. That will include a whopping $17 million to Ohtani and $1.1 million to the IRS.

It’s unlikely Mizuhara has anywhere close to that much cash on hand. The scandal exposed his financial struggles and his crippling gambling addiction, which led him to lose $40 million on wagers.

Mizuhara won’t be able to rake in cash from selling his trove of Ohtani-signed memorabilia, either. Mizuhara’s plea agreement, obtained by The Daily Beast, says he’s barred by selling his “various collectible baseball cards and sports memorabilia” that were seized by authorities from his Newport Beach home.

Mizuhara allegedly made 19,000 wagers with an illegal bookie between December 2021 and January 2024, which averages out to about 25 bets per day. He claims to have never bet on MLB games or on Ohtani.

Prosecutors said Mizuhara took advantage of Ohtani by translating for the MLB star at a bank in Arizona and learning of his password. Mizuhara later broke into the account to change his password and account email to his own, authorizing himself to make transactions on Ohtani’s behalf.

Once in control of the account, prosecutors said Mizuhara siphoned funds from his boss to pay off his growing gambling debt—confirming wire transfers over the phone himself, with Ohtani ignorant to the scheme.

Shohei Ohtani Signs Historic Mega-Contract With Los Angeles Dodgers

Mizuhara’s agreement specified that he called the bank and impersonated Ohtani on 24 occasions.

In a press release, prosecutors said Mizuhara tried to cover up his theft by insisting Ohtani wanted to keep his finances private.

“When Ohtani’s sports agent and financial advisors asked Mizuhara for access to the bank account, Mizuhara lied and said Ohtani did not want them to access the account because it was private,” the statement said. “In fact, Mizuhara did not want them to know that he had been stealing from Ohtani and had fraudulently obtained more than $16,975,010 from him.”

In a statement of his own, U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada skewered Mizuhara for his recklessness.

“The extent of this defendant's deception and theft is massive,” he said. “He took advantage of his position of trust to take advantage of Mr. Ohtani and fuel a dangerous gambling habit.”

The plea agreement, which is yet to go into effect, added that Mizuhara is likely to be deported from the U.S. and denied re-entry into the country upon his release from prison, if he is sent there as expected.

Mizuhara will waive his right to appeal his charges if he goes through with the plea deal, the document said.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

Get the Daily Beast's biggest scoops and scandals delivered right to your inbox. Sign up now.

Stay informed and gain unlimited access to the Daily Beast's unmatched reporting. Subscribe now.