Shohei Ohtani interpreter fired after ‘massive theft’ accusation by Dodgers star, according to report

By | March 20, 2024

Los Angeles, CA - February 3: Shohei Ohtani, right, of the Los Angeles Dodgers speaks to the media with the help of his interpreter Ippei Mizuhara during DodgerFest, a celebration of the upcoming season with live entertainment, behind-the-scenes experiences, food, drinks and meeting the newest Dodgers at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 3, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)

Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter has been fired after being accused of allegedly stealing millions of dollars from the superstar Los Angeles Dodgers, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Ohtani’s legal team reportedly alleged that Ippei Mizuhara used the two-way phenomenon’s money to place bets with an allegedly illegal bookmaker, Mathew Bowyer, who is currently under federal investigation.

A Dodgers spokesman told the Times shortly after news broke that Mizuhara had been fired.

From the time:

In a statement, West Hollywood law firm Berk Brettler said: “While responding to recent media inquiries, we discovered that Shohei has been the victim of a massive theft and we are turning the case over to authorities.”

Mizuhara was working in South Korea the night before, interpreting for Ohtani after the Dodgers’ 5-2 victory over the San Diego Padres to open the MLB season. To replace Mizuhara, the Dodgers can likely look in-house, as Yoshinobu Yamamoto has used his own interpreter since signing with the team.

Ohtani’s interpreter said the Dodgers star paid off $4.5 million in gambling debts, then things got weird

A subsequent ESPN report shed more light on the situation behind the scenes, but raised even more questions.

Ohtani’s camp reportedly offered Mizuhara for an interview in Korea on Tuesday night, where he claimed the slugger had agreed to pay off at least $4.5 million in gambling debts last year. He claimed he had previously placed bets through DraftKings before meeting Bowyer, who he believed was a legal bookmaker.

From ESPN:

“I’m terrible [at gambling.] I’m never going to do it again. I never won any money,” Mizuhara said. “I mean, I dug myself a hole and it kept getting bigger and bigger, and it meant I had to bet bigger to get out and just kept losing. It’s like a snowball effect.”

Presumably Ohtani was unhappy when he heard about this and agreed to make the payments to Bowyer’s employee himself rather than giving him Mizuhara. The payment was said to be a loan to Mizuhara, who reportedly earned between $300,000 and $500,000 annually from Ohtani, with the description of the transfer filled in as “loan.”

However, when asked about this account, Ohtani’s camp reportedly disavowed Mizuhara, who told ESPN the next day that Ohtani had no knowledge of the gambling debt and had not made the transfer. At issue appeared to be the claim that Ohtani was directly involved in the payments, which led to the involvement of his legal team:

When an ESPN reporter asked Ohtani’s camp about Mizuhara’s accusation that Ohtani was present and helped transfer the money and that he would be reimbursed, the spokesperson contacted Ohtani’s lawyers, who then issued the statement in which he said he was the victim of a “massive theft.”

ESPN reports that Bowyer has been in direct contact with Mizuhara, who as of 2021 had reportedly placed bets on football games and other sports, but never on baseball. Bowyer’s attorney said he never spoke or met Ohtani. MLB players are allowed to bet on other sports, but not with illegal bookmakers.

Mizuhara reportedly addressed the Dodgers clubhouse Wednesday night in Korea and told them a story was coming out and it was all his fault. He said he has a gambling addiction.

Ippei Mizuhara was more than an interpreter for Shohei Ohtani

The development comes as a shock to anyone who has followed Ohtani closely. Mizuhara’s tenure as Ohtani’s interpreter goes back to his rookie year with the Los Angeles Angels in 2018, and his tenure as a friend goes back even longer. The two first met when Ohtani joined the Nippon-Ham Fighters in 2013 while Mizuhara was working as an interpreter for an English-speaking player.

Mizuhara followed Ohtani to the United States and became a fixture in Ohtani’s side as he became the greatest baseball player in the world. He even served as Ohtani’s catcher for the 2021 Home Run Derby. He has been Ohtani’s voice at every public appearance and his best friend since arriving in the United States.

Ohtani brought Mizuahara with him when he signed a record $700 million contract with the Dodgers last offseason, the largest known contract by total value in sports history. Ohtani is also by far the richest player in the MLB in terms of endorsements, with Sportico estimating that he makes $65 million per year. That figure is greater than the rest of the top 15 players combined, with Bryce Harper in second place with $7 million.

The past few months have also been eventful for Ohtani outside of baseball. He announced a surprise wedding last month, with his wife’s identity revealed days ago: retired Japanese basketball player Mamiko Tanaka. He also went viral with his adoption of a dog named Dekopin.

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