Ohtani interpreter fired after being tied to illegal bets

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Ohtani's attorneys accused Mizuhara of "massive theft" tied to illegal gambling. ESPN reported that at least $4.5 million in wire transfers were sent to the bookmaking operation.

Ippei Mizuhara, the longtime interpreter for Shohei Ohtani, was fired by the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday after wire transfers from Ohtani’s bank account were sent to a Southern California bookmaking operation, according to multiple media reports.

Ohtani’s attorneys accused Mizuhara of “massive theft” tied to illegal gambling. ESPN reported that at least $4.5 million in wire transfers were sent to the bookmaking operation, which is under federal investigation.

“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,” a statement from West Hollywood law firm Berk Brettler LLP read.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Mizuhara was still interpreting for Ohtani on Wednesday when the Dodgers opened the regular season against the San Diego Padres in Seoul, South Korea. He was seen in the dugout during the game.

Afterward, Mizuhara spoke to the team in the clubhouse and revealed a story was coming out and stated that he had a gambling addiction, ESPN reported, citing a Dodgers spokesperson.

ESPN added that it reviewed bank information showing Ohtani’s name on two $500,000 payments, one sent in September and the other in October, to the bookmaking operation run by Mathew Bowyer. The word “loan” was on both payments.

A spokesman for Ohtani initially told ESPN that the former Los Angeles Angels two-way force had transferred funds to cover Mizuhara’s gambling debts. Mizuhara agreed to an interview with ESPN on Tuesday night and told his story for approximately 90 minutes.

Mizuhara, 39, told ESPN he asked Ohtani for help with his gambling debts.

“Obviously, (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.”

On Wednesday, the spokesman changed tunes, debunking Mizuhara’s account and declining further comment.

Also Wednesday, Mizuhara’s story changed, as he said Ohtani didn’t know about the gambling debts and did not transfer money.

Ohtani signed a record 10-year, $700 million contract with the Dodgers in the offseason, not long after winning his second unanimous American League MVP award.

Ohtani’s stint with the Angels started in 2018, and Mizuhara has been a constant companion in the dugout and off the field. He runs errands for Ohtani on a personal level and translates scouting reports from managers and coaches to Ohtani in the clubhouse.

Mizuhara told ESPN his bets were on NFL, NBA, college football games and international soccer.

“I never bet on baseball,” Mizuhara said. “That’s 100 percent. I knew that rule. … We have a meeting about that in spring training.”

—Field Level Media