Ibi Mizuhara, former translator for Shohei Ohtani, is accused of bank fraud and stealing more than $16 million. – Sports News (Trending Perfect)


Written by Andy McCullough, Mike Vorkunov, and Sam Bloom

Three weeks after emerging as a central figure in the gambling scandal surrounding Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani, former translator Ibe Mizuhara has been accused of stealing more than $16 million from Ohtani to pay off gambling debts, according to an affidavit filed by federal authorities on Oct. 11. Thursday.

The complaint accuses Mizuhara, 39, of bank fraud, a crime that carries a maximum sentence of 30 years. Mizuhara is expected to appear in federal court, likely on Friday, for a bond hearing. No plea will be entered, and a hearing is expected to be scheduled. The investigation uncovered evidence of the “massive theft” alleged by Ohtani's lawyers after the Dodgers fired Mizuhara on March 20.

In the 37-page complaint, the government portrayed Mizuhara as a compulsive gambler who kept Ohtani in the dark during a three-year period during which he made about 19,000 bets totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. The investigation found that Mizuhara lost nearly $40 million due to gambling. The money he used to pay off those debts came from Ohtani's bank account, which Mizuhara helped set up in 2018.

The scandal led to scrutiny of Ohtani's character and conviction after the duo star told reporters on March 25 that he was completely unaware of Mizuhara's gambling problems and the alleged theft. Mizuhara was his translator and closest companion for six seasons with the Los Angeles Angels and last spring with the Dodgers. The duo drove to work together every day and were rarely out of each other's sight on the field. Ohtani refused to reveal how Mizuhara stole the money. The federal investigation provided some answers.

“Mr. Ohtani is considered a victim in this case,” U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada said during a news conference in Los Angeles.

The investigation revealed no evidence that Ohtani cooperated with Mizuhara to place bets. When reviewing text conversations between the two men, the government found no discussion of gambling and no authorization for Mizuhara to transfer money from Ohtani's accounts. In a statement issued Thursday, a Major League Baseball spokesperson noted that the sport's investigation would be paused “until the criminal proceeding is resolved to determine whether further investigation is warranted.”

In the fall of 2021, after Mizuhara became acquainted with an alleged illegal bookmaker named Matthew Boyer, the translator began losing money gambling. Estrada said his bets “didn't appear to be on baseball.”

To repay the debt, the complaint alleged, Mizuhara began impersonating Ohtani while speaking with bank employees to access his account. Once successful, Mizuhara transferred at least $15 million between February 2022 and October 2023 to an account linked to alleged illegal bookmakers. Those banking calls were recorded and eventually shared with federal investigators.

Estrada said Mizuhara used the money “largely to fund his insatiable appetite for illegal sports gambling.”

The New York Times reported Wednesday that Mizuhara He was negotiating with federal authorities to plead guilty. The extent of Mizuhara's proposed plea deal is not yet known.

Prosecutors allege that Mizuhara was vigilant in concealing any knowledge of his problems from Ohtani and denied anyone else access to his bank account. Neither Ohtani's agent, Nez Balilo, nor any of Ohtani's financial advisers were allowed to monitor the bank account, according to interviews conducted by federal agents. The bank account contains money Ohtani received from the Los Angeles Angels; His profits were distributed through endorsements and other endeavors elsewhere.

Federal agents were led to Mizuhara as a result of a previous investigation by the IRS and Department of Homeland Security that was looking into the illegal betting industry in Southern California and how money was laundered through Las Vegas casinos, according to an affidavit filed by IRS Special Agent Chris. Seymour. This investigation has already led to charges or convictions of 12 people, as well as a financial services company. The government also reached non-prosecution agreements with two Vegas casinos.

Mizuhara's connection to the gambling world was revealed on March 20. In separate interviews with ESPN, Mizuhara told the media that Ohtani paid an estimated $4.5 million to help him pay off gambling debts. Mizuhara later retracted that story and suggested that Ohtani was unaware of his gambling problem. The Dodgers fired Mizuhara after Ohtani learned that Mizuhara had told team officials that Ohtani had paid the debt.

Homeland Security agents arrested Mizuhara at Los Angeles International Airport on March 21 after he got off a flight from South Korea. Mizuhara handed over his phone. By then, Mizuhara's world had already begun to unravel, according to text messages and interviews documented in the complaint.

Mizuhara with the angels. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

At some point, Mizuhara sent a message to one of the three anonymous bookmakers named in the complaint asking whether the bookmaker had seen the stories about his firing.

“Yes, but this is all bullshit,” the bookmaker wrote. “You obviously didn't steal from him. I understand it's a cover mission and I totally get it.”

“Technically, I stole from him,” Mizuhara replied. “It's all over for me.”

During interviews on April 2 and 3, the days the Dodgers played the San Francisco Giants in Los Angeles, Ohtani said he first learned of Mizuhara's gambling problems in South Korea, after Mizuhara addressed the Dodgers in the locker room. After the match in Seoul.

Balilo told investigators that he did not speak to Ohtani directly, either in person or via text messages, but only through Mizuhara. When Palilul asked Mizuhara about the bank account, the agent told investigators that Mizuhara told him it was private and that Ohtani did not want to monitor it. But Ohtani told federal investigators that he did not give control of his accounts to Mizuhara.

Their relationship lasted more than a decade. They met when Ohtani was still a rising star for the Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan, with Mizuhara serving as an interpreter for the English-speaking players. Ohtani told investigators that when Ohtani signed with the Angels in 2017, Mizuhara reached out to him and asked him about working as his interpreter.

The Angels hired Mizuhara as Ohtani's interpreter while Ohtani hired him as his assistant and to handle some of the daily responsibilities. Mizuhara was with Ohtani when he opened his bank account in 2018 in Arizona and translated for him when he provided personal details to set it up.

But federal prosecutors allege Mizuhara kept Ohtani insulated from his gambling exploits and in the dark about the use of his account. At one point, according to the complaint, an unidentified bookmaker appeared to imply that he would go directly to Ohtani himself to settle a growing dispute over outstanding payments. In November 2023, as Mizuhara continued to rack up losses with the bookmaker and demanded increasing debt limits, he received a text message from the bookmaker, according to the federal complaint, referring to Ohtani as “Victim A.”

“Hi Ebby [sic]“It's 2pm on Friday,” the bookmaker wrote. “I don't know why you're not answering my calls. I'm here in Newport Beach and I see [Victim A] He walks his dog. I'll go up and talk to him and ask him how can I contact you because you're not answering? Please call me back immediately. “

Mizuhara responded two days later to ask if he could negotiate a number he could pay. He told the bookmaker he had lost a lot of money on cryptocurrencies and through his sports betting, although he added: “Of course I know it's my fault.”

The complaint said Mizuhara made an average of 25 bets per day from December 2021 to January 2024. His bets ranged from $10 to $160,000, and averaged $12,800. Those records showed that Mizuhara's account was credited with total winning bets equaling $142,256,769.74 and his losses amounted to $182,935,206.68. Any winnings went to Mizuhara's personal account, not Ohtani's account.

“Our investigation revealed that because of the position of trust he held with Mr. Ohtani, Mr. Mizuhara had unique access to Mr. Ohtani’s financial affairs,” Estrada said. “Mr. Mizuhara used and abused this position of trust to take advantage of Mr. Ohtani. Mr. Mizuhara used and abused this position of trust in order to plunder Mr. Ohtani's bank account to the tune of over $16 million. Mr. Mizuhara did all of this to satiate his insatiable appetite for sports betting Illegal.

Required reading

(Photo: Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)



Leave a comment