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MLB opens probe into gambling allegations surrounding Ohtani, ex-interpreter

Major League Baseball announced it has opened an investigation into gambling allegations surrounding Los Angeles Dodgers superstar Shohei Ohtani (L) and his former longtime interpreter Ippei Mizuhara (R). File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
Major League Baseball announced it has opened an investigation into gambling allegations surrounding Los Angeles Dodgers superstar Shohei Ohtani (L) and his former longtime interpreter Ippei Mizuhara (R). File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

March 23 (UPI) — Major League Baseball says it is formally investigating allegations that the ex-interpreter for Los Angeles Dodgers superstar Shohei Ohtani used $4.5 million of the player’s money to pay off gambling debts.

“Major League Baseball has been gathering information since we learned about the allegations involving Shohei Ohtani and Ippei Mizuhara from the news media,” MLB officials said in a statement released Friday. “Earlier today, our Department of Investigations began their formal process investigating this matter.”

Mizuhara, the interpreter, is accused of illegally betting on sports and allegedly used Ohtani’s money to pay off his debt to bookmaker Mathew Bowyer in California.

The investigation isn’t a criminal one and doesn’t involve the FBI or the California Bureau of Investigations. It also doesn’t preclude Ohtani from competing in MLB games.

The Dodgers already started the MLB season with two games played between the San Diego Padres and Dodgers Wednesday and Thursday in Seoul, South Korea. Ohtani and Mizuhara were in Seoul for the games when the Dodgers learned of the matter and fired Mizuhara as Ohtani’s interpreter.

When the matter initially came to light earlier in the week, initial indications were that Ohtani paid off the gambling debt for Mizuhara using a series of wire transfers. Ohtani’s attorneys now say he was the victim of theft.

Mizuhara told ESPN he didn’t know he was laying illegal bets with Bowyer and says he never bet on baseball and instead wagered on soccer, the NFL, college basketball and the NBA. Sports betting is illegal in California, and the MLB bans betting on baseball.

Bowyer is under federal investigation, and his attorney told CBS Sports that he never met or had any contact with Ohtani.

Ohtani’s lawyers said they recently discovered $4.5 million missing from Ohtani’s bank accounts and reported the suspected theft to law enforcement.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles has not commented on the matter.

Mizuhara had been Ohtani’s interpreter since the Japanese two-way star joined the Angels in 2018 and established himself as a both a top pitcher and home-run hitter. Ohtani won the American League MVP award the past three seasons and finished fourth in Cy Young voting in 2022.

Ohtani, 29, signed a 10-year, $700 contract with the Dodgers during the recent off season and it is estimated he earns more than $50 million annually in endorsements.

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