U.S. Attorney: Shohei Ohtani ‘Considered A Victim’ In Bank Fraud Charges Against Ippei Mizuhara

The federal investigation into Ippei Mizuhara concluded on Thursday with the Department of Justice announcing Shohei Ohtani’s former interpreter and Los Angeles Dodgers employee is being charged with bank fraud.

The announcement of the criminal complaint was made by U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada and he was accompanied by IRS Special Agent in Charge Tyler Hatcher and Special Agent in Charge at U.S. Department of Homeland Security Eddy Wang.

The complaint alleges Mizuhara stole more than $16 million from Ohtani without his knowledge to pay off gambling debts incurred with an illegal bookmaking operation.

The transfers from this bank account allegedly were made from November 2021 to January 2024 on devices and IP addresses associated with Mizuhara, who served as Ohtani’s translator and de facto manager.

In 2018, Mizuhara accompanied Ohtani, who didn’t speak English, to a bank branch in Arizona to assist Ohtani in opening the account and translated for Ohtani when setting up the account details.

Ohtani’s salary from playing professional baseball was deposited into this account and he never gave Mizuhara control of this or any of his other financial accounts, according to the affidavit.

Mizuhara allegedly told Ohtani’s U.S.-based financial professionals, none of whom spoke Japanese, that Ohtani denied them access to the account.

In September 2021, Mizuhara began gambling with an illegal sports book and, several months later, started losing substantial sums of money, the affidavit states.

During this time, the contact information on Ohtani’s bank account allegedly was changed to link the account to Mizuhara’s phone number and to an anonymous email address connected to Mizuhara.

Mizuhara allegedly also called the bank and falsely identified himself as Ohtani to trick bank employees into authorizing wire transfers from Ohtani’s bank account to associates of the illegal gambling operation.

Bank fraud carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. Mizuhara is expected to appear in a Los Angeles district court within the next couple of days.

Investigation reveals Shohei Ohtani a victim of theft

During the announcement, Estrada stressed that Ohtani is “considered a victim in this case.”

“There is no evidence to indicated that Mr. Ohtani authorized the over $16 million of transfers from his account to the bookmakers. Mr. Ohtani has stated that he did not authorize these transfers, that he did not grant Mizuhara access to his account.

“But on top of that, we reviewed both Mizuhra’s and Mr. Ohtani’s phones and their communications over time, over several years, thousands of communications, reviewed by a Japanese linguist, and that review has demonstrated no discussion of betting, wagers, or authorization for transfers to bookmakers.

“Furthermore, there would have been no reason for Mizuhara to impersonate Mr. Ohtani in calls with the bank if these transfers had been authorized.

“Also, when Mr. Mizuhara would occasionally win on his sports bets, the winnings were not deposited in Mr. Ohtani’s bank account, but rather into Mr. Mizuhara’s personal bank account.

“Finally, in a text message with one of the bookmakers, Mr. Mizuhara admitted to the bookmaker to stealing from Mr. Ohtani.”

In addition to those findings, Estrada also revealed Ohtani turned his phone over to investigators and fully cooperated with law enforcement.

“Mr. Ohtani, as I mentioned, has been established as a victim in this case,” Estrada said. “I want to be clear, Mr. Ohtani has cooperated fully and completely in this investigation.

“He’s not only spoken to investigators, he’s provided access to his digital devices, to his personal information to ensure that justice was done in this case.”

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