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Dodgers fire Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter amid theft allegations, gambling probe

Shohei Ohtani's longtime interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara (L), was fired Wednesday by the Los Angeles Dodgers. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI

1 of 5 | Shohei Ohtani’s longtime interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara (L), was fired Wednesday by the Los Angeles Dodgers. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

March 21 (UPI) — The Los Angeles Dodgers fired interpreter Ippei Mizuhara amid lawyers’ claims that star player Shohei Ohtani was a victim of “a massive theft,” related to Mizuhara’s multimillion-dollar gambling debt.

“The Dodgers are aware of media reports and are gathering information,” the Dodgers said Wednesday in a statement. “The team can confirm that interpreter Ippei Mizuhara has been terminated. The team has no further comment at this time.”

A spokesman for Ohtani initially told ESPN that at least $4.5 million was transferred from Ohtani’s bank account to a bookmaking operation to cover Mizuhara’s gambling debts.

The spokesman later denied Mizuhara’s account of the story and Ohtani’s lawyers, at the firm Berk Brettler LLP, issued a statement, saying their client was a victim of “a massive theft.”

“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,” Berk Brettler LLP said.

During an interview with ESPN on Tuesday, Mizuhara said he had asked Ohtani to pay off his gambling debt in 2023. He told the outlet that Ohtani “wasn’t happy about it,” but paid the debt.

A day later, Mizuhara told ESPN that Ohtani was not aware of his gambling debt and he never transferred money to an associate of the bookmaker.

Sources told ESPN and the Los Angeles Times that Mizuhara placed bets with a an alleged bookmaker in Southern California, and that Ohtani’s name surfaced during a federal investigation into that man.

Sports betting remains illegal in California. MLB players are allowed to bet on sports other than baseball, but not permitted to wager with illegal bookmakers.

Mizuhara told ESPN that he placed bets on soccer, the NBA and football, but “never bet on baseball.”

MLB did not immediately respond Thursday when asked if officials were in contract with federal authorities or if Ohtani was under league investigation.

The Dodgers signed Ohtani to a 10-year, $700 million contract in December, the largest deal in North American sports history. Mizuhara and Ohtani have worked together since 2018. He is often seen alongside the Dodgers star in the dugout, clubhouse and media settings, and on road trips.

Ohtani went 2 for 5 with an RBI and stolen base in his Dodgers debut, a 5-2 win over the San Diego Padres on Wednesday in Seoul. He went 1 for 5 with another RBI in a 15-11 loss to the Padres in the second game of the MLB season Thursday in South Korea’s capital city.

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