Ohtani’s Ex-Interpreter Will Plead Guilty In Sports Betting Case

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Shohei Ohtani’s ex-interpreter last week agreed to plead guilty to federal charges of stealing $17 million from the Major League Baseball star’s bank account, the Justice Department announced. 

Ippei Mizuhara faces up to 33 years in federal prison the crimes. Mizuhara stole the money to pay off sports betting debts to an illegal bookmaking operation.

He has agreed to plead guilty to one count of bank fraud (maximum of 30 years) and one count of filing a false tax return (max of three years). 

Attorney: Deception, theft ‘massive’

Mizuhara’s arraignment on the sports betting charges is Tuesday.

“The extent of this defendant’s deception and theft is massive,” United States attorney Martin Estrada said in a news release. “He took advantage of his position of trust to take advantage of Mr. Ohtani and fuel a dangerous gambling habit. My office is committed to vindicating victims throughout our community and ensuring that wrongdoers face justice.”

Sports betting debts lead to crimes

The news release said Mizuhara impersonated Ohtani 24 times in order to deceive bank employees and authorize wire transfers from the Los Angeles Dodgers’ designated hitter. 

On one occasion, Ohtani agreed to pay for $60,000 of dental work for Mizuhara, who ended up keeping the money for himself. 

The ex-interpreter also bought $325,000 worth of baseball cards from dealers with Ohtani’s money. Afterward, Mizuhara intended to resell them for his own gain. 

Mizuhara owes over $1.1 million in 2022 taxes

Sports betting debts paid to associate

ESPN reported that Ryan Boyajian is the associate of the bookmaker to whom Mizuhara wired money to pay off his debts. Boyajian is a cast member of the reality TV show Real Housewives of Orange County on Bravo

Meanwhile, a production company is already set to develop the sports betting scandal into a television series

MLB ‘dragged’ into legal sports betting

In midst of the Ohtani scandal, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred claimed the league was “dragged” into the legal market. 

“We were kind of dragged into legalized sports betting as a litigant in a case that ended up in the Supreme Court,” Manfred said with a laugh at the Associated Press Sports Editors Commissioners Meetings. “Having said that, I recognize, probably better today than when we were involved in that litigation, that one of the advantages of legalization is it’s a heck of a lot easier to monitor what’s going on than it is with an illegal operation.” 

Manfred on Ohtani, prop bets

Federal investigators have cleared Ohtani of any wrongdoing in the case.

“We haven’t had a player that was involved (in making the illegal bets),” Manfred said. 

Asked about prop bets, Manfred replied:

“We’ve been on prop bets from the very beginning. When we lobby in states, there’s always certain types of bets that we have lobbied against — I mean, the first pitch of the game, we really don’t want that available as a prop bet.”