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Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter fired amid accusations of ‘massive theft’

The longtime interpreter for Los Angeles Dodgers superstar Shohei Ohtani was fired Wednesday after being accused by Ohtani’s attorneys of “massive theft” that the attorneys allege is tied to gambling, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Ohtani’s legal team accused former interpreter Ippei Mizuhara of stealing millions of dollars and placing bets with a bookmaker under federal investigation, according to the newspaper and ESPN. The details were first reported by the Los Angeles Times.

“In the course of responding to recent media inquiries, we discovered that Shohei has been the victim of a massive theft and we are turning the matter over to the authorities,” Ohtani’s law firm, Berk Brettler LLP, told CNN.

The Dodgers “can confirm that interpreter Ippei Mizuhara has been terminated,” the Dodgers said in a release.

The Dodgers also are “aware of media reports and are gathering information.” The team added it had no further comment.

It’s unclear how the interpreter allegedly stole the money.

A complicated story

However, the “massive theft” wasn’t originally referenced as such by the parties involved.

According to ESPN, Ohtani’s spokesman initially told the outlet that the Japanese superstar was covering the gambling debts of his longtime friend and interpreter.

Additionally, in an interview with ESPN on Tuesday, Mizuhara originally said wire transfers from Ohtani’s bank account to an alleged bookmaking operation were to cover his losses, but that Ohtani had zero involvement in the betting. According to ESPN, Mizuhara said he didn’t know his gambling was illegal and that, despite being unhappy about the situation, Ohtani agreed to pay the debts.

However, as ESPN was getting ready to publish its story Wednesday, Ohtani’s lawyers released the statement saying he was a victim of theft.

On Wednesday, Mizuhara then walked back on much he had previously told ESPN, saying Ohtani had no knowledge or involvement in the gambling activities, or his efforts to repay the debt.

Mizuhara was seen smiling in the LA dugout and was talking to Ohtani before translating for the star in the team’s 5-2 win over the San Diego Padres in the MLB season-opening game in Seoul, South Korea, on Wednesday. The Dodgers then fired Mizuhara once the story came out.

Mizuhara and Ohtani worked together from 2013 to 2017 at Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball League team Nippon-Ham Fighters, where Mizuhara worked as an interpreter for non-Japanese speaking players, according to MLB.com. After Ohtani asked Mizuhara to join him in Los Angeles, Mizuhara became Ohtani’s interpreter in his rookie season with his former team, the Los Angeles Angels, in 2018.

The 29-year-old two-time American League MVP signed a historic 10-year, $700 million deal with the Dodgers this past offseason.

CNN has sought comment from Ohtani’s agent, further comment from the Dodgers and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, but did not immediately hear back.

MLB had no comment to CNN on the issue as of Thursday morning. CNN has also sought comment from Mizuhara.

Baseball’s murky past

Baseball has a troubled history with gambling. The most famous – or infamous – incident is the ‘Black Sox Scandal.’

During the 1919 World Series, the heavily-favored Chicago White Sox were stunned 5-3 in a best-of-9 series by the Cincinnati Reds. However, a year later, eight White Sox players were accused of conspiring with gamblers to lose the Fall Classic on purpose.

They were all acquitted in a 1921 trial but were banned for life from professional baseball by then-commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis.

Another involved MLB’s all-time hits leader Pete Rose, who received a lifetime ban from the sport in 1989 for betting on Cincinnati Reds games while he was a player/manager for the team.

Rose, whose ban makes him ineligible for election to baseball’s hall of fame, admitted in his 2004 autobiography that he bet on baseball while Reds manager and, three years later, told ESPN Radio that he bet on the Reds to win every night.

In 2023, Americans gambled a record $119.84 billion on sports, a 27.5% increase from the previous year, according to the American Gaming Association’s Commercial Gaming Revenue Tracker.

CNN’s Jill Martin and David Close contributed to this report.

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