Shohei Ohtani’s Former Interpreter to Plead Guilty to Fraud Charges

Ippei Mizuhara, who federal prosecutors allege stole nearly $17 million from Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani to cover gambling debts while working as his interpreter, will plead guilty to bank and tax fraud charges.

According to the US States Attorney’s Office, Central District of California, Mizuhara will plead guilty to one count of bank fraud and another for subscribing to a false tax return. The bank fraud charge is punishable by up to 30 years in federal prison and up to a $1 million payment to the Internal Revenue Service. Mizuhara will enter a plea for a planned arraignment on May 14, according to prosecutors.

Mizuhara, 39, is alleged to have transferred money from Ohtani’s bank accounts without his permission to pay off debts to Mathew Bowyer, whom federal agents were investigating for running an illegal gambling ring in California.

“The extent of this defendant’s deception and theft is massive,” said United States Attorney Martin Estrada. “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.”

Ippei Mizuhara plead guilty
Interpreter Ippei Mizuhara (left) stands next to Japanese baseball star Shohei Ohtani and translates during an interview at Dodger Stadium on Feb. 3, 2024, in Los Angeles. Mizuhara, the former interpreter for Ohtani pleaded guilty to bank and tax fraud Wednesday, May 8, 2024, in a sports betting case where prosecutors allege he stole $16 million from the Japanese baseball player to pay off debts. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

Major League Baseball has not released the findings of an internal investigation that began days after Mizuhara’s alleged crimes were revealed by ESPN. That vacuum of information led to a frenzy of speculation over whether one of the world’s greatest baseball players was involved in a career-ending gambling scandal. These charges would appear to quell those fears.

“Our joint investigation with Homeland Security Investigations clearly showed Mr. Mizuhara not only stole from Mr. Ohtani, but also that he lied to the IRS about his income, “said Special Agent in Charge Tyler Hatcher, IRS Criminal Investigation, Los Angeles Field Office. “Mr. Mizuhara exploited his relationship with Mr. Ohtani to bankroll his own irresponsibility. In cases where we are able to identify them, we make every effort to make things right for victims, and this is one of those cases.”

Jacob Pomrenke, head of the Black Sox Scandal Research Committee with the Society for American Baseball Research, said MLB would have no choice but to ban the megapopular Ohtani if he is found to have knowingly been involved.

Mizuhara claims he never bet on baseball. But his actions run afoul of MLB’s gambling rules by his association with an illegal bookmaker.

“There’s no other option. You cannot leave any wiggle room for employees of any kind to think that this is OK, and that they’ll get away with it if only they are too big of a star or well-connected. You have to say this is the red line and nobody can cross it. Baseball has had success and has a history of doing that, with Pete Rose with the Black Sox [and] a number of other gambling situations in the early 20th century.”

Read Mizuhara’s plea deal here.


Timeline of Mizuhara Fraud Case:

The Department of Justice detailed how Mizuhara was able to skim money from Ohtani, allegedly taking advantage of his interpreter job as he helped set up bank accounts and glean crucial personal information.

  • March 2018 – “Mizuhara accompanied Ohtani to a bank in Phoenix to help him open a bank account to deposit his MLB salary. Inside the bank branch, Mizuhara interpreted for Ohtani when the bank employee provided Ohtani the login information for this bank account.”

  • September 2021 – “Mizuhara began placing sports bets with an illegal bookmaker. Shortly thereafter, Mizuhara began to lose bets and quickly became indebted to the bookmaker. Unable to pay his gambling debts, Mizuhara orchestrated a scheme to deceive and cheat the bank to fraudulently obtain money from the account.

  • From no later than November 2021 to March 2024 – “Mizuhara used Ohtani’s password to successfully sign into the bank account and then changed the account’s security protocols without Ohtani’s knowledge or permission. Specifically, Mizuhara changed the registered email address and telephone number on the account so bank employees would call him – not Ohtani – when attempting to verify wire transfers from the account. … In furtherance of the scheme, Mizuhara impersonated Ohtani and used Ohtani’s personal identifying information to deceive the bank’s employees into authorizing wire transfers from the bank account. In total, Mizuhara called the bank and impersonated Ohtani on approximately 24 occasions.

  •  June 20, 2023 – “Mizuhara regularly logged into Ohtani’s bank account and initiated wire transfers from the account to the bookmaker and his associates as payments for gambling debts. For example, on June 20, 2023, Mizuhara accessed the account without Ohtani’s permission and transferred $500,000 to one of the bookmaker’s associates.”

  • September 2023 – “Mizuhara needed $60,000 worth of dental work and Ohtani agreed to pay for it via a check drawn on a business account at a different bank. However, Mizuhara provided his dentist Ohtani’s debit card number for the bank account Ohtani had opened in Phoenix, charged $60,000 to that account, then deposited the $60,000 check into Mizuhara’s personal bank account.”

  • January 2024 to March 2024 – “Mizuhara purchased approximately $325,000 worth of baseball cards from online resellers such as eBay from Ohtani’s bank account with the intent to resell them later and for his own personal benefit.”

  • February 2024 – Mizuhara “willfully made and subscribed to a false individual federal income tax return for the tax year 2022. On that tax return, Mizuhara falsely claimed that his total taxable income for that year was $136,865 when in fact he knew the amount was substantially higher and he knowingly failed to report additional income of $4.1 million. The source of the unreported income was from his scheme to defraud the bank. Mizuhara, under penalty of perjury, signed the false income tax return and admitted in his plea agreement that he owes approximately $1,149,400 in additional taxes for the tax year 2022, plus additional interest and penalties.”
About the Author
Brant James

Brant James

Senior Writer
Brant James is a senior writer who covers the sports betting industry and legislation at Gaming Today. An alum of the Tampa Bay Times, ESPN.com, espnW, SI.com, and USA Today, he's covered motorsports and the NHL as beats. He also once made a tail-hook landing on an aircraft carrier with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and rode to the top of Mt. Washington with Travis Pastrana. John Tortorella has yelled at him numerous times.

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