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Ippei Mizuhara Admits to Stealing $17 Million from Shohei Ohtani to Cover Gambling Debts

On Tuesday morning, former Shohei Ohtani interpreter Ippei Mizuhara pled guilty to two federal counts of stealing $17 million from Ohtani. Mizuhara had fallen into severe gambling debt with an illegal bookmaker. His sentencing is set for October 25.

Ippei Mizuhara Admits to Stealing $17 Million from Shohei Ohtani to Cover Gambling Debts


Dressed in a dark suit with an untucked shirt and no tie, Mizuhara admitted to Judge John A. Holcomb, “I worked for Victim A and had access to his accounts. I had fallen into major gambling debt. The only way I could think of to pay that was to send money from Victim A’s account” to the illegal bookmaker.


Mizuhara pled guilty to one count of bank fraud and one count of subscribing to a fraudulent tax return. The maximum penalty for these charges is 33 years in prison and a $1.5 million fine. Tuesday’s proceedings took place at the Ronald Reagan Federal Building and Courthouse in Santa Ana, California, following previous court appearances at the Roybal federal complex in downtown Los Angeles.


Next, the court and U.S. Probation Office will compile a pre-sentencing packet that Holcomb will use for reference at sentencing.


Mass media presence inside and outside the courtroom was significant, with more than 100 media members temporarily clogging Santa Ana’s 4th Street. Mizuhara spoke only in the courtroom and solely in response to Holcomb’s questions. His attorney, Michael Freedman, declined to comment despite the pair being surrounded by media as they exited the courthouse.


In April, Mizuhara turned himself in after federal investigators discovered he had stolen $17 million from Ohtani to settle gambling debts. Although he has not been named in any cases related to the Wayne Nix illegal gambling ring, it appears Mizuhara was betting with Mathew Bowyer. Bowyer, based in Orange County, is also under federal investigation but has not been charged.


Nix is set to be sentenced in September. Former Las Vegas casino executive Scott Sibella was sentenced to one year of probation and a $9,500 fine on May 9 for failing to file a suspicious activity report when Nix gambled at MGM Grand, where Sibella worked. Sibella allowed Nix, a known illegal bookmaker, to pay for a $120,000 casino marker in cash.


Mizuhara faces a much stiffer penalty. In court and in a plea agreement, he admitted to lying to Ohtani (referred to as Victim A), as well as Ohtani’s agents, financial managers, and an Arizona bank. According to U.S. Attorney Jeff Mitchell, Mizuhara impersonated Ohtani in 24 phone calls with the bank and “regularly logged in (to Ohtani’s bank account) and initiated wire transfers.”


Federal authorities labeled Ohtani a victim early in the investigation. Following Mizuhara’s guilty plea, MLB cleared Ohtani and released a statement saying the Dodgers star is a “victim of fraud and this matter has been closed.”

Cyprus Gaming License


Mizuhara used some of the $16,975,010 he transferred from Ohtani’s account for other purposes. Mitchell stated, “Victim A” agreed to pay for $60,000 of dental work in September 2023 and “drew a cheque.” Mizuhara then used Ohtani’s debit card to pay for the dental work and deposited the cheque into his personal account. Mizuhara also used Ohtani’s money to buy Yogi Berra, Juan Soto, and Ohtani baseball cards on eBay and WhatNot, intending to sell the cards for a profit.


Throughout the deception, Mitchell said, Mizuhara lied to Ohtani’s sports agents and financial advisors, denying them access to Ohtani’s accounts by claiming they were “private.”


Tuesday’s court appearance began with Holcomb welcoming the large crowd but warning that recording was prohibited. He then questioned Mizuhara about his fitness to stand trial and explained the rights he waived by pleading. Before addressing the plea agreement, Holcomb told Mizuhara, “All that will be left of your case is for me to impose sentencing, which may include imprisonment.”


The total offense level for Mizuhara’s crimes is classified at 29, but this will be reduced by up to four levels because Mizuhara is a first-time offender and is cooperating with authorities. In addition to potential prison time and fines, Mizuhara will be required to pay restitution to Ohtani and additional taxes of $1.15 million before interest and penalties.


The situation has added to a difficult period for Major League Baseball concerning gambling. On May 17, MLB opened a betting investigation into former Ohtani teammate David Fletcher and his high school friend Cody Schultz. Fletcher currently plays for the Atlanta Braves, and Schultz is a former minor leaguer. ESPN reported that Fletcher bet with Bowyer but did not bet on baseball. Schultz, according to ESPN, bet on Angels games in which Fletcher played and is believed to be “Bookmaker 3” in the federal affidavit that underpins the Mizuhara complaint.


Additionally, on Monday afternoon, the Wall Street Journal reported that MLB had opened a separate gambling investigation into San Diego Padres shortstop Tucupita Marcano and four minor league players. The WSJ reported that Marcano bet on baseball while on the Pittsburgh Pirates roster.


Betting on baseball is a violation of MLB rules. Mere hours before Mizuhara’s court appearance on June 4, the league announced that Marcano had received a lifetime ban for allegedly placing 231 MLB-related wagers, including 25 wagers on the Pirates while on the active roster.


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