Baseball-Ohtani’s former interpreter is negotiating a guilty plea, New York Times reports

By Thomson Reuters Apr 10, 2024 | 10:48 PM

(Reuters) – Japanese baseball star Shohei Ohtani’s former interpreter, who was fired by the Los Angeles Dodgers amid allegations that he stole from Ohtani to cover gambling debts, is in negotiations with federal prosecutors to plead guilty, the New York Times reported.

Ippei Mizuhara has been linked to at least $4.5 million in payments that were transferred from Ohtani’s account to an illegal Southern California gambling operation, ESPN reported.

The exact charges under discussion were not revealed in the Times report.

Neither Mizuhara’s attorney, Michael Freedman, nor a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California immediately responded to Reuters requests for comment after hours on Wednesday.

The Times report, citing the three unnamed sources, said prosecutors may have uncovered evidence that Mizuhara stole more than the reported $4.5 million and suspect he was able to conceal the transactions by changing the settings on Ohtani’s bank account.

Ohtani, who signed a record $700 million, 10-year contract to join the Dodgers this season, told reporters in a March 25 press conference that he was a victim of theft by Mizuhara and that he never bet on baseball or knowingly paid a bookmaker.

Betting on baseball could prompt a lifetime ban from Major League Baseball.

Ohtani said he was “saddened and shocked” at what happened and that he never agreed to pay off the debt or make a payment to the bookmaker, telling reporters at the press conference he would have no further comment on the matter.

Mizuhara had previously told ESPN that Ohtani had agreed to pay his gambling debts, and he shared that story in a team meeting.

But Ohtani told reporters that when he later spoke to Mizuhara he admitted to using Ohtani’s account to make the payments.

The Dodgers then fired Mizuhara, who met Ohtani in 2013 when they were both at Japan’s Nippon Ham Fighters and was his near-constant companion during Ohtani’s six seasons with the Los Angeles Angels.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Peter Rutherford)