Ohtani interpreter accused of stealing millions from MLB star for illegal betting

Ippei Mizuhara fired by LA Dodgers

A major-league star like Shohei Ohtani is used to being headline news. But not like this. Ohtani has been embroiled in an illegal sports betting scandal after his interpreter and friend Ippei Mizuhara was fired by the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday following accusations that he has stolen millions of dollars from the player for the purposes of illegal gambling.

The LA Times reported that Mizuhara allegedly used the stolen money to place bets with sportsbook operation in California, where sporting betting remains illegal.

ESPN suggested that funds totaling at least $4.5 million were sent via wire transfers from Ohtani’s bank account to an associate of L.A. resident Mathew Bowyer, who is being investigated by federal U.S. authorities on suspicion of running a bookmaking operation.

Per ESPN, bank information showed Ohtani’s name on two $500,000 payments marked as loans that were sent in September and October. Despite his name’s alleged presence on the transfers, a statement from MLB given to The Athletic confirmed that Ohtani is not currently facing discipline and he is not believed to be under active investigation by the league.

While Mizuhara maintains Ohtani never placed bets himself, the murky situation is not helped by Mizuhara’s conflicting statements.

In an interview with ESPN on Tuesday night, Mizuhara said that he told Ohtani about his sports betting debts and that the star “wasn’t happy about it and said he would help me out to make sure I never do this again.” The next day, he contradicted himself by insisting that Ohtani had no knowledge of his gambling debts and had not transferred any money to Bowyer’s associate, despite suggestions that Ohtani’s name was on multiple transfers.

Mizuhara claimed that after having placed bets with DraftKings in the past, he assumed that placing wagers through Bowyer’s Southern California operation was legal. He also stressed that he never bet on baseball, which is strictly banned by the MLB. Players are allowed to bet on other sports as long as the sportsbook operation they use is legal in their jurisdiction.

ESPN cites a source as claiming that while Bowyer was aware of the name on the transfers, he turned a blind eye as long as the money arrived. However, Bowyer allegedly allowed people to believe Ohtani was a client in order to boost business. He could now be facing potential felony charges. He previously had his home raided by federal authorities in October, where items such as casino chips, a money-counting machine, cash, and luxury items were seized.

The day Toronto thought they were getting Ohtani

Former LA Angel Ohtani is perhaps the biggest star in all of baseball and is the highest-paid player in the history of North American sports. This isn’t the first time his name has moved a ton of money, although usually it’s sports fans laying it down.

He signed a record 10-year, $700-million contract with the Dodgers in December after a highly publicized saga that had many people believing he might be about to sign for the Toronto Blue Jays. Reports from MLB insider Jon Morosi on December 10 that Ohtani was on a plane to Toronto subsequently turned out to be mistaken and he ultimately stayed in LA, breaking many a Canadian sports fan’s heart.

On that day in December, speculation over Ohtani’s future was a huge driver of baseball betting traffic across numerous sportsbooks, with nearly 85% of money wagered on World Series odds at BetMGM on Dec. 10 placed on the Jays.

The following day, Ohtani announced he was signing for the Dodgers.

You win some, you lose some.

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