Dodgers Shake-Up: Shohei Ohtani’s Interpreter Fired Amid Gambling Scandal

Posted on: March 20, 2024, 08:17h. 

Last updated on: March 21, 2024, 11:34h.

A long-time interpreter for Los Angeles Dodgers star player Shohei Ohtani reportedly was fired Wednesday over improper gambling accusations.

Shohei Ohtani, left, and Ippei Mizuhara
Shohei Ohtani, left, and his translator, Ippei Mizuhara in a photo. Mizuhara was fired by the L.A. Dodgers as Ohtani’s interpreter after a gambling controversy. (Image: Sporting News)

It was claimed that the interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, 39, was facing massive sports gambling debts totaling at least $4.5M, owed to an allegedly illegal operation.

Based on an initial report on Tuesday, Ohtani wired money to cover his friend’s mounting losses. But as more details were revealed, a law firm representing Ohtani said he was, in fact, the victim of a theft.

We discovered that Shohei has been the victim of a massive theft, and we are turning the matter over to the authorities,” West Hollywood-based law firm Berk Brettler LLP said in a statement released on Wednesday afternoon.

The allegations came to light after reporters asked about wire transfers that displayed Ohtani’s name. The transfers include two $500K payments that were made in September and October.

The transfers were sent from an account belonging to Ohtani to an associate linked to a bookmaking entity based in Southern California, ESPN initially reported. The bookmaking operation is reportedly run by Mathew Bowyer of California.

Mizuhara told Ohtani that he would eventually pay him back, according to Mizuhara’s statements on Tuesday.

Ohtani “wasn’t happy about it and said he would help me out to make sure I never do this again,” Mizuhara initially told ESPN.

Two-time MLB MVP Ohtani, 29, is currently under a 10-year, $700-million contract with the Dodgers. That’s a record amount for North American professional sports. Originally from Japan, he formerly played for the Angels.

Story Quickly Changes

Mizuhara’s version of events changed by Wednesday afternoon.

In more recent statements, Mizuhara told ESPN that Ohtani was unaware of the gambling debts, and Ohtani never wired money to the unnamed associate. At no time were there accusations linking Ohtani to gambling, ESPN further reported.

Mizuhara reportedly wagered on soccer games and other athletic events since 2021, according to ESPN. The other sports were NBA and NFL games, as well as college football. There was no betting on MLB games.

‘All My Fault’

“Obviously, this is all my fault, everything I’ve done,” Mizuhara told ESPN. “I’m ready to face all the consequences.”

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,” Mizuhara said.

Mizuhara also said this week that he has a gambling addiction.

Mizuhara’s salary from the team is between $300K and $500K a year.

It was also revealed that Bowyer’s bookmaking operation is under federal investigation. Sports betting on credit is illegal in California. But Mizuhara thought wagers made through Bowyer’s operation were legal, ESPN reported.

Mizuhara had made wagers earlier through another legal operation.

In response to the controversy, Diane Bass, a California attorney representing Bowyer, issued a statement to ESPN on Wednesday.

Mr. Bowyer never met or spoke with Shohei Ohtani,” she said. She did not provide details.

During a search of Bowyer’s residence last October, federal agents confiscated cash, casino chips, a money-counting machine, computers, and other items, ESPN reported.

Mizuhara first met Bowyer in 2021 during a San Diego poker game.

Las Vegas Connection?

The federal investigation into Bowyer is reportedly also looking into illegal sports betting linked to Wayne Nix. Nix, a former minor league baseball player, pleaded guilty to running an illegal sportsbook out of Costa Rica. He has yet to be sentenced.

The Nix case is also connected to Scott Sibella, ex-president of Resorts World and MGM Grand. He pleaded guilty in January to charges of failing to file suspicious activity reports in connection with federal anti-money laundering laws. Sibella admitted he knew that Nix operated an illegal bookmaking operation, but permitted him to gamble at MGM Grand and other properties with money from the illegal operation.