Here’s how investigators allege Ippei Mizuhara stole $16 million from Shohei Ohtani

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Federal authorities allege Ippei Mizuhara, the former longtime interpreter for Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani, stole more than $16 million from the two-way baseball sensation to cover his gambling debts.

The charges were outlined in a complaint filed with the United States District Court for the Central District of California on Thursday. The complaint, written by IRS senior special agent Chris Seymour, cites wire transfers, text messages, phone records and interviews in alleging that Mizuhara exploited his position of trust with Ohtani to fund his frequent and illegal sports betting.

Here are some notable allegations from the complaint:

Mizuhara helped Ohtani open his US bank account

Mizuhara accompanied Ohtani to a bank in Arizona “in or about 2018” and helped him open an account where his baseball salary was deposited. Investigators believe Ohtani’s earnings from endorsement deals and investments went to a different account.

Seymour writes that the first unauthorized transfer from the account appears on Nov. 15, 2021 “for $40,010 to, a PayPal service.” He says that debit transaction aligns with the timing of text messages between Mizuhara and a bookmaker discussing that amount.

Mizuhara later falsely identified himself as Ohtani in phone communications with the bank, managing to lift an online banking suspension on the account and begin verifying wire transfers with his own phone.

By May of 2023, transfers ballooned to $500,000 each.

Mizuhara placed nearly 25 wagers per day and lost nearly $41 million

The complaint says Mizuhara’s phone contained hundreds of pages of text messages with a number associated with a specific bookmaker — known as Bookmaker 1. The messages appear to include negotiations as Mizuhara tried to pay off his gambling debts.

“I have a problem lol,” read one message from Mizuhara on June 24, 2023. “Can I get one last last last bump? This one for real. . . . Last one for real.”

Investigators also cite a spreadsheet provided by a source in Bookmaker 1’s organization that showed roughly 19,000 wagers between December 2021 and January 2024 for Mizuhara’s account — nearly 25 bets per day on average. The wagers ranged from roughly $10 to $160,000 per bet, averaging around $12,800.

Mizuhara’s winning bets totaled over $142 million, but his losing bets were around $183 million — a net loss of nearly $41 million. Winnings were not paid to Ohtani’s bank accounts, even though those accounts were used to help pay off the debts.

Investigators say records do not show any bets from Mizuhara’s account on baseball games.

One bookmaker threatened to approach Ohtani

Bookmaker 1 claimed to have eyes on Ohtani in a text message to Mizuhara sent Nov. 17, 2023.

“Hey Ippie, it’s 2 o’clock on Friday,” the message said. “I don’t know why you’re not returning my calls. I’m here in Newport Beach and I see (Ohtani) walking his dog. I’m just gonna go up and talk to him and ask how I can get in touch with you since you’re not responding? Please call me back immediately.”

Mizuhara also used Ohtani’s money to buy baseball cards

The alleged fraud also spanned the lucrative memorabilia market. Investigators seized roughly 1,000 collectible baseball cards, including for such players as Yogi Berra, Juan Soto and even Ohtani. They discovered approximately $325,000 in transactions to online retailers from January to March. Authorities believe Mizuhara purchased the cards from the sites with the intent to resell them later.

Mizuhara admitted to stealing Ohtani’s money

The final entry in the Statement of Probably Cause includes a text exchange between Mizuhara and Bookmaker 1 on March 20, 2024 — the day Mizuhara was fired from the Dodgers amid news reports about his gambling and theft.

“Have you seen the reports?” Mizuhara wrote.

“Yes, but that’s all (vulgarity),” Bookmaker 1 responded. “Obviously you didn’t steal from him. I understand it’s a cover job I totally get it.”

“Technically I did steal from him,” Mizuhara said. “It’s all over for me.”

Copyright © 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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