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Ippei Mizuhara, ex-interpreter for baseball star Shohei Ohtani, expected to enter guilty plea

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Oakland Athletics
MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Oakland Athletics

SANTA ANA, Calif. — The former interpreter for Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani is scheduled to plead guilty to bank and tax fraud in a sports betting case where he will admit to stealing nearly $17 million from the Japanese baseball player.

The change-of-plea hearing for Ippei Mizuhara in federal court in Santa Ana, California, comes as the gambling scandal has shocked baseball fans from Japan to the U.S. and ratcheted up a media frenzy that’s ever-present around Ohtani. It occurs as the Dodgers begin a three-game series in Pittsburgh.

The duo’s personal and professional relationship allowed Mizuhara to exploit his access to the two-way player. Prosecutors say he plundered millions from Ohtani’s account for years, at times impersonating him to bankers, to pay off sports gambling debts.

Mizuhara’s winning bets totaled over $142 million, which he deposited in his own bank account and not Ohtani’s. His losing bets were around $183 million, a net loss of nearly $41 million. He did not wager on baseball.

Authorities say there was no evidence Ohtani was involved in or aware of Mizuhara’s gambling, and the player cooperated with investigators.

MLB rules prohibit players and team employees from wagering on baseball, even legally. MLB also bans betting on other sports with illegal or offshore bookmakers.

Mizuhara signed a plea agreement that detailed the allegations on May 5, and federal prosecutors announced it several days later.

Mizuhara is expected to plead guilty to one count of bank fraud and one count of subscribing to a false tax return. The bank fraud charge carries a maximum of 30 years in federal prison, and the false tax return charge carries a sentence of up to three years in federal prison.

Sentencing and restitution proceedings have not yet been scheduled.