Ohtani Considered Victim, Interpreter Seeks Plea Deal in Gambling Probe

Two revelations have come to light this week in the gambling investigation into Dodgers’ designated hitter Shohei Ohtani and his former interpreter.

A New York Times article claims Ippei Mizuhara, who formerly was employed by the Dodgers and served as interpreter for the two-time Most Valuable Player, is seeking a plea deal on charges that he stole money from the player to pay gambling debts.

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US Attorney: “Ohtani Is Considered a Victim in This Case”

A US Attorney in Los Angeles, Martin Estrada, has said that Ohtani “is a victim” in the case. Estrade explained to CNN that Ohtani has cooperated with authorities in the investigation.

Allegedly, Mizuhara stole as much as $16 million from Ohtani over the last several years, at least $4.5 million to pay off illegal offshore sportsbooks. Sports betting has not been legalized in California: two ballot initiatives that would have done so were defeated in 2022.

Ohtani and Mizuhara are also under investigation by Major League Baseball for possible violations of rules against gambling. Mizuhara was an employee of the Los Angeles Angels before he worked for the Dodgers, who fired him in late March when it was revealed he had allegedly bet on baseball. It was later revealed that Mizuhara used his access to Ohtani’s bank accounts to allegedly pay his gambling debts. Ohtani continues to insist he had no idea his friend and interpreter had a gambling problem and was unaware that the money was missing from his account.

If, as Estrada says, Ohtani is a victim, MLB will have no reason to punish the superstar, who signed a record $700 million contract to play with the Dodgers over the winter. Ohtani is leading the National League in hits, doubles, and total bases, and is batting .333 for his new team.

MLB Rules on Baseball Betting

MLB rules prohibit employees and uniform personnel from wagering on baseball, though they can bet on other sports legally. A violation of the rule against betting on baseball is punishable by either a year suspension (when the wager is on a game the person is not involved with), or permanent suspension (if the bet is on a game the person is involved with). Any MLB employee or player who bets with an illegal sportsbook is eligible for punishment by the MLB commissioner, as he sees fit. It’s unclear if Ohtani was aware that Mizuhara was betting with an illegal sportsbook and using his money to fund that activity. If it’s shown he knew, Ohtani could be fined or suspended.

The Dodgers were in South Korea to play their season-opening series against the San Diego Padres in March when ESPN broke the news that Mizuhara had placed bets with an illegal sports betting operator. In a hasty interview that followed, Mizuhara claimed Ohtani approved the use of his bank account to pay the debts. Later, the interpreter recanted.


About the Author
Dan Holmes

Dan Holmes

Writer and Contributor
Dan Holmes is a veteran writer and contributor for Gaming Today. He has written three books, including The Ballplayers: Baseball’s Greatest Players Remembered, Ranked, and Revealed, which will be released in 2024. Holmes has previously worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Major League Baseball.

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