Shohei Ohtani's ex-interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, reportedly in negotiations to plead guilty in gambling scandal

The former interpreter of Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani is in negotiations to plead guilty in connection to the alleged theft of Ohtani's money to cover his gambling debts, Tim Arango and Michael S. Schmidt of the New York Times reported Wednesday.

The Dodgers announced Ippei Mizuhara had been fired from his role as Ohtani's interpreter last month amid claims from Ohtani's representation that Mizuhara stole funds from the Japanese star’s bank account to cover debts he owed to an illegal bookmaker. The amount was reported to be millions of dollars. Ohtani's representatives were reportedly quick to request a legal investigation into the scheme, and MLB opened its own investigation two days after Mizuhara's firing.

Ohtani has reportedly been interviewed by the feds as part of the legal investigation, which began about three weeks ago, according to the New York Times. He broke his silence regarding the scandal on March 26, saying that he "never bet on baseball or any other sports."

The probe is reportedly a joint effort 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. Those agencies are also reportedly investigating Mathew Bowyer, the bookmaker Mizuhara said he paid.

Mizuhara will be represented by Michael G. Freedman in the case, the report said. Freedman is a former federal prosecutor who regularly defends white-collar criminals.

This picture taken on March 16, 2024 shows Los Angeles Dodgers' Shohei Ohtani (R) and his interpreter Ippei Mizuhara (L) attending a press conference at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul ahead of the 2024 MLB Seoul Series baseball game between Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres. The Los Angeles Dodgers said on March 21 they had fired Shohei Ohtani's interpreter after the Japanese baseball star's representatives claimed he had been the victim of
The Los Angeles Dodgers fired Shohei Ohtani's interpreter due to allegations of "a massive theft" reported to involve millions of dollars. (Photo by JUNG YEON-JE/AFP via Getty Images)

It appears that Freedman's expertise will be put to use, as prosecutors have reportedly secured evidence that Mizuhara might have stolen more from Ohtani than the previously cited $4.5 million. Further, the authorities have reportedly discovered that Mizuhara changed Ohtani’s bank account settings to ensure the two-way phenom didn't receive alerts or confirmations about transactions.

The initial allegations against Mizuhara surfaced while the Dodgers were in Seoul, South Korea, for the club's season-opening series against the San Diego Padres. Mizuhara was confronted by law enforcement officials upon his return to California, per the report, but he wasn't arrested.

Given that the story from Ohtani's camp regarding the theft changed twice, Mizuhara's guilty plea could help clarify the confusing timeline.

Time is also apparently of the essence for the former interpreter. A swift admission of guilt could reportedly sway federal prosecutors and judges to levy a gentler punishment against Mizuhara.