Shohei Ohtani interpreter scandal: Piecing together the timeline with Ippei Mizuhara facing federal charge

The scandal has already seen a change in the story from Ohtani's camp

MLB opened its season with its biggest superstar, Shohei Ohtani, leading the Los Angeles Dodgers to a win. Then came the scandal.

Specifically, Ohtani's longtime interpreter and friend, Ippei Mizuhara, was fired by the Dodgers in March after being reported to have stolen millions of dollars from the two-way phenom to cover his gambling debts. The story stunned the baseball world by dropping out of nowhere and only got more confusing as details emerged.

Clarity finally arrived Thursday, when federal authorities charged Mizuhara with bank fraud in a 37-page criminal complaint that laid out the extent to which the interpreter allegedly stole from his former client.

In the interest of clarity, here's the story chronologically, as it was laid out in an ESPN report, plus some background information. The timeline also includes new insight from the government’s legal complaint against Mizuhara, along with subsequent reporting from the New York Times and Los Angeles Times.

2013: Ohtani and Mizuhara meet in Japan

When we say Ohtani and Mizuhara go way back, we mean all the way back to the start of Ohtani's professional career in Japan. In 2013, Ohtani plays his rookie year for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters and meets Mizuhara, who began working as an interpreter for American player Chris Martin that season.

Late 2017: Ohtani moves to MLB, brings Mizuhara with him

With great fanfare, Ohtani signs with the Los Angeles Angels, who hire Mizuhara to work as Ohtani's interpreter. Over the next six years, Ohtani wins Rookie of the Year and two MVP awards while Mizuhara translates for him and acts in a number of other capacities, including Home Run Derby catcher and workout partner.

2018: Ohtani and Mizuhara open a bank account

Mizuhara's alleged theft was reportedly achieved by him having total control over a bank account in Ohtani's name, with the interpreter's phone number and an anonymous email address as the contact information.

This account was likely opened when the pair were in Arizona for Ohtani's first spring training:

In or about 2018, MIZUHARA accompanied [Ohtani] to a Bank A branch in Arizona to assist [Ohtani] in opening the x5848 Account, and translated for [Ohtani] when setting up the account details. [Ohtani]’s salary from playing professional baseball was then deposited into the x5848 Account.

September 2021: Mizuhara meets Bowyer and begins gambling with him

Mizuhara, who had allegedly been placing bets on DraftKings, meets Mathew Bowyer, the bookmaker, at a poker game in San Diego. He later claimed to have believed it was legal to place bets with Bowyer, which he allegedly did. A lot. The complaint includes this text from on or about Sept. 24, 2021:

“I've just been messing around with soccer, there's games on 24/7 lol. I took UCLA but they lost outright!!!”

November 2021: Mizuhara starts removing money from Ohtani's bank account

Mizuhara allegedly made his first withdrawal from Ohtani's account in the amount of $40,010 sent to, a PayPal service.

November 2022: Mizuhara realizes he needs to improve his betting skills

On or around Nov. 14, Mizuhara reaches out to Bowyer, admitting that his skill at gambling leaves much to be desired and acknowledging that his access to Ohtani allowed him much additional credit:

"I'm terrible at this sport betting thing huh? Lol," he writes. "Any chance you can bump me up again?? As you know, you don't have to worry about me not paying!!"

It shouldn't surprise anyone to learn that this wasn't the last time Mizuhara would request a credit increase.

September-October 2023: $1 million is sent to Bowyer under Ohtani's name

Bank records show Ohtani's name on two $500,000 wire transfers sent to an associate of Bowyer's. The description section of the transfers read "loan." One ESPN source claims that Bowyer allowed people to believe Ohtani was a client to help his business.

Mizuhara later claims this was done after Ohtani agreed to cover $4.5 million of his gambling debts. Ohtani allegedly "wasn't happy" but said he would help to make sure Mizuhara wouldn't do it again. Ohtani was also said to have logged onto his own computer and sent the wires under Mizuhara's supervision:

Asked why Ohtani didn't simply give him the money instead of paying Bowyer's associate directly, Mizuhara said Ohtani didn't trust him with the money.

"He didn't want me to gamble it away," Mizuhara said.

Mizuhara said he told Ohtani he would pay him back.

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 14: Shohei Ohtani answers questions and Ippei Mizuhara translates during the Shohei Ohtani Los Angeles Dodgers Press Conference at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, December 14, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
Shohei Ohtani and Ippei Mizuhara had a long working relationship before the scandal. (Photo by Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

October 2023: Bowyer's home is raided

Bowyer's home is raided by federal authorities, with a search warrant inventory showing agent-seized cash, casino chips, banking documents, a money-counting machine, multiple computers, portable storage devices and cellphones.

December 2023: Ohtani signs with the Dodgers

Ohtani obliterates the record for largest MLB contract with a 10-year, $700 million deal with Los Angeles that defers $680 million to be paid after the life of the contract.

January 2024: Feds notice Ohtani's name in Bowyer's operation

The federal authorities learn that Ohtani's name is on the wire payments.

March 19: Mizuhara speaks with ESPN

ESPN eventually gets wind of the story and contacts Ohtani's camp while the star is in South Korea.

Crucially, a spokesman tells ESPN that Ohtani transferred the funds to cover Mizuhara's gambling debt, then makes Mizuhara available for a 90-minute interview in which he lays out the supposed story:

"Obviously, he [Ohtani] wasn't happy about it and said he would help me out to make sure I never do this again," Mizuhara said. "He decided to pay it off for me."

"I want everyone to know Shohei had zero involvement in betting. I want people to know I did not know this was illegal. I learned my lesson the hard way. I will never do sports betting ever again."

Later, Ohtani's camp claims this all happened after the player's handlers spoke with him while relying on Mizuhara to interpret. Ohtani supposedly remained in the dark about the situation.

March 20: So much happens

It might be best to go through this via lightning round:

  1. Ohtani helps lead the Dodgers to a season-opening 5-2 win over the San Diego Padres.

  2. After the game, Dodgers officials call a clubhouse meeting and tell players a negative story is coming later in the day. Mizuhara apologizes and admits he has a gambling addiction.

  3. Ohtani starts asking questions, per the later ESPN report.

  4. An ESPN reporter asks the Ohtani camp about Mizuhara's allegation that Ohtani was present and helped move the funds and that he was going to be paid back.

  5. Ohtani's spokesman contacts Ohtani's attorneys, then disavows Mizuhara's account.

  6. Ohtani's attorneys at Berk Brettler LLP release a statement: "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."

  7. Mizuhara agrees to another interview with ESPN but says he was told he could not comment when asked if he has been accused of theft. He declines to say who told him that.

  8. Mizuhara recants his story, claiming that Ohtani had no knowledge of his gambling activities or debts and that Ohtani did not make the wire transfers.

  9. The story is broken by the Los Angeles Times, which received the statement.

  10. Mizuhara is fired.

  11. At some point, Mizuhara sends the bookmaker an encrypted message admitting that he stole from Ohtani, per the legal documents, which aren't released until a month later.

"Have you seen the reports?” Mizuhara asks Bowyer.

“Yes, but that’s all bulls***. Obviously you didn’t steal from him. I understand it’s a cover job," Bowyer responds.

“Technically I did steal from him," Mizuhara writes. "It’s all over for me.”

March 21: No comment from Ohtani

Following the Dodgers' 15-11 loss to the Padres, Ohtani is guarded at his locker by team PR officials and leaves the locker room without speaking to reporters.

This entire sequence of events leaves plenty of questions.

It's unclear when the second Mizuhara interview on the 20th occurred in relation to the later events, but the exact order doesn't change the story. On March 19, Ohtani's camp said the player was helping Mizuhara with his gambling debts. On March 20, that same camp said Mizuhara made it all up and is a thief.

March 22: MLB opens investigation into allegations against Mizuhara

After Ohtani's camp blamed Mizuhara, Major League Baseball announced an official probe into the situation. The statement, which misspelled Mizuhara's surname, made no mention of sidelining Ohtani.

Sometime around March 25: Legal investigation into Mizuhara is opened

A joint legal investigation into Mizuhara is reportedly opened about three weeks before a New York Times article is published on April 10. The probe is led by the Los Angeles branch of the Internal Revenue Service’s criminal division, the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. attorney’s office for the Central District of California.

The investigation finds that Mizuhara managed to alter the alerts settings on Ohtani's bank account, according to the New York Times. Prosecutors also reportedly secure evidence that Mizuhara might have stolen more from Ohtani than the previously cited $4.5 million.

April 2-3: Feds interview Ohtani

The authorities finally sit down with Ohtani and ask him about his finances, through "a court-certified Japanese-language interpreter."

Ohtani proceeds to tell them that he didn't check his finances often, never authorized any wires and never gave Mizuhara control over the bank account involved.

April 10: Mizuhara is reportedly in negotiations to plead guilty

While no legal investigation was officially announced, the New York Times reports April 10 that Mizuhara is in negotiations to plead guilty in front of a federal judge. He will reportedly be represented by Michael Freedman in the case, a former federal prosecutor who regularly defends white-collar criminals.

April 11: Mizuhara is charged with bank fraud for allegedly stealing more than $16 million

Mizuhara is formally charged with bank fraud for allegedly stealing more than $16 million from Ohtani. The former Dodgers employee made unauthorized transfers from Ohtani's bank account between November 2021 and January 2024 to pay off his illegal gambling debts, U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada says at a news conference April 11. The amount Mizuhara is accused of stealing is a staggering increase from what was initially reported. A 37-page affidavit is published detailing the evidence against him.

The change of story, naturally, led to a torrent of conspiracy theories about Ohtani's involvement in the gambling, but the details reported independent of Mizuhara's account all line up with the idea that the interpreter was the one who was illegally gambling and that the baseball star is a victim of theft.