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Shohei Ohtani's former interpreter pleads guilty to gambling-related theft charges

Shohei Ohtani's former interpreter pleads guilty to gambling-related theft charges
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Ippei Mizuhara, the former interpreter for Japanese baseball star Shohei Ohtani, leaves federal court in Los Angeles, California, U.S., May 14, 2024. 

Mike Blake | Reuters

The former translator for Los Angeles Dodgers superstar Shohei Ohtani pleaded guilty on Tuesday to federal charges stemming from his multi-million-dollar thefts from the baseball icon.

Ippei Mizuhara, 39, appeared in a Santa Ana courtroom and admitted his guilt to single counts of bank fraud and subscribing to a false tax return.

U.S. District Court Judge John Holcomb scheduled Mizuhara’s sentencing for Oct. 25

Mizuhara began making bets with an illegal bookmaker in September 2021, running up a massive bill, prosecutors have said.

When word of the federal probe first leaked in March, there were concerns about Ohtani possibly having connections to betting on baseball, a strictly verboten act under MLB guidelines.

But federal prosecutors have made it clear that they purely view Ohtani as a victim of Mizuhara, who took advantage of the trust the player had in him.

Mizuhara used Ohtani’s password to get to his bank account, without his knowledge or permission, to pay off gambling debts, prosecutors have said.

Ohtani is arguably the world’s best known baseball player, now in his seventh MLB season.

He signed a heavily backloaded, team-friendly $700 million contract this past off season with the Dodgers. His first six seasons in North America were spent with the nearby Los Angeles Angels.

Ohtani is one of baseball’s most valuable players for his ability to both hit and pitch at a high level, a feat not seen since the early 20th century when Babe Ruth was still with the Boston Red Sox.

The two-way star Ohtani is still recovering from an elbow injury that’s keeping him off the mound in 2024 and limiting his action to the batter’s box.

Ohtani is still one of baseball’s most valuable players, even as a mere one-way performer this season. On Tuesday, Ohtani was in the top 10 of base hits, doubles, home runs, slugging percentage and on-base percentage. 

— Linda Takahashi contributed.

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