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Ohtani’s former interpreter negotiating guilty plea: NYT

Ippei Mizuhara, the former translator for Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani, is purportedly negotiating a guilty plea with federal prosecutors, according to the New York Times.

Citing three sources briefed on the matter, the Times reports Mizuhara is expected to plead guilty following accusations that he used an illegal bookmaker to place bets on sports and racked up millions in debts that he later paid off using money stolen from the reigning American League MVP.

Mizuhara was fired by the Dodgers organization after federal investigators tied him to an ongoing investigation involving the alleged bookmaker, Mathew Bowyer, a resident of Orange County.

Betting on baseball in any way is banned by the MLB, as is using an illegal bookmaker or offshore website. Any sports bets placed in California are illegal, as the state has not legalized it.

Ohtani has claimed he had no knowledge of his interpreter and close personal friend’s gambling debts or the misappropriation of his money to cover them.

Investigators initially described Ohtani as the victim of “massive theft,” with the amount stolen believed to be around $4.5 million. Now, according to the New York Times, that number might be even higher.

“Authorities think they have evidence that Mizuhara was able to change the settings on Ohtani’s bank account so Ohtani would not receive alerts and confirmations about transactions,” wrote Tim Arango and Michael S. Schmidt, citing the three people briefed on the matter.

The scandal broke just months after Ohtani signed the richest deal in professional sports history, a 10-year $700 million contract.

Mizuhara, 39, had sat down with ESPN for an exclusive interview in which he purportedly admitted to paying off his debts with Ohtani’s money, saying at first that Major League Baseball’s biggest star had offered.

He later walked back those comments and Ohtani held a press conference at Dodger Stadium in which he called his longtime ally and translator a liar.

“All of this has been a complete lie,” Ohtani said on March 25. “I never agreed to pay off the debt or make payments to the bookmaker.”

Who is Ippei Mizuhara, Shohei Ohtani’s now former interpreter?

Ohtani and Mizuhara were once considered one of the great partnerships in American sports, having first met when the two-way star was a member of a Japanese baseball club. Mizuhara served as Ohtani’s catcher during the Home Run Derby at the 2021 MLB All-Star Game, accompanied him during hundreds of interviews, and planned to follow him from his previous team, the Los Angeles Angels, to the Dodgers.

After the accusations of theft came to light, more scrutiny has been directed toward the Southern California native’s background and resume.

A confirmed graduate of Diamond Bar High School in eastern Los Angeles County, Mizuhara had previously been identified as a graduate of UC Riverside. The university has since come forward to say it has no record of him graduating from the school, according to The Athletic.

His biography also identified him as the translator for Hideki Okajima when the Japanese pitcher played for the Boston Red Sox in 2010. The team now says that never happened either.

Both Mizuhara and Bowyer are under criminal investigation by the IRS, along with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Department of Homeland Security.

Major League Baseball launched its own investigation into Mizuhara’s alleged involvement in sports gambling, including whether Ohtani was a victim or a willing participant in the scheme.

Ohtani has pledged to cooperate fully with any investigation related to Mizuhara’s alleged illegal dealings. The Dodgers organization has since encouraged him to focus on the current baseball season and allow for the legal process to conclude, which, according to the New York Times, is expected soon.

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