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MX News Update 2024

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Interpreter Ippei Mizuhara pleads guilty to fraud for taking millions from Shohei Ohtani

Shohei Ohtani’s former interpreter and manager Ippei Mizuhara has agreed to plead guilty Thursday to bank fraud charges for allegedly stealing nearly $17 million from Ohtani’s accounts to settle gambling debts. cover, the US Department of Justice announced.

ABC News first reported the development. Mizuhara’s arraignment is scheduled for May 14. Mizuhara’s attorney, Michael Freedman, said he had no comment at this time. Spokespeople for the Dodgers and Ohtani also declined comment.

Mizuhara will plead guilty to one count of bank fraud, which carries a maximum penalty of 30 years, and one count of filing a false tax return, which carries a maximum penalty of three years. The DOJ said in the plea agreement that it would recommend a reduced sentence if Mizuhara “demonstrates acceptance of responsibility.” The judge will ultimately determine the final sentence.

The plea agreement states that Mizuhara is expected to almost certainly be deported to Japan, his native country. Mizuhara spent much of his life in the United States, where he attended school in Southern California.

“Defendant and his counsel have discussed the fact that, and Defendant understands that, if Defendant is not a U.S. citizen, the convictions in this case make it virtually inevitable and a virtual certainty that Defendant will be removed or deported from the United States. ” reads the agreement.

Mizuhara, 39, was fired by the Dodgers on March 21 amid news reports that at least $4.5 million had been transferred from Ohtani’s accounts to an alleged illegal bookmaker, Mathew Bowyer. Ohtani accused Mizuhara of “massive theft,” claiming Mizuhara took the money without his knowledge. Federal authorities charged Mizuhara with bank fraud on April 11 and released a 37-page affidavit detailing how the former interpreter gained access to Ohtani’s accounts and used the money to “feed his insatiable appetite for illegal sports betting,” said US Attorney Martin Estrada.

“The magnitude of this defendant’s deception and theft is enormous,” Estrada said in a statement Wednesday. “He abused his position of trust to take advantage of Mr Ohtani and fuel a dangerous gambling habit. My office is committed to vindicating victims throughout our community and ensuring that offenders are brought to justice.”

According to the release, Mizuhara “fraudulently” obtained more than $16,975,010 from Ohtani’s account, which contained playing salaries from his contract with the Los Angeles Angels. Mizuhara may be required to pay restitution to Ohtani, although the exact amount has yet to be determined.

The settlement details much of the timeline of Mizuhara’s alleged theft. He first transferred $40,010 on November 15, 2021, and then made 36 transfers totaling $15 million between February 28, 2022 and October 13, 2023. His most recent transfer took place on January 8 this year. Mizuhara is said to have impersonated Ohtani 24 times at the star’s bench.

Mizuhara had worked for Ohtani since his arrival in the United States in 2018, when Ohtani hired Mizuhara as his de facto manager and interpreter, court documents show. Their relationship lasted longer than that, as Mizuhara worked for NPB’s Nippon Ham Fighters when Ohtani played professionally in Japan from 2013 to 2017. Their relationship was such that Mizuhara often had to make routine purchases for Ohtani, and on at least one occasion. On this occasion, Ohtani agreed to cover the costs for Mizuhara.

According to the plea agreement, Ohtani agreed to pay for Mizuhara’s dental work last September. Ohtani authorized a $60,000 check to Mizuhara for the dental work. However, according to court documents, Mizuhara paid for the procedure with Ohtani’s debit card, then pocketed the money from Ohtani’s check and deposited it into his own personal checking account.

Ohtani, who is in the first year of a new 10-year contract with the Dodgers after six seasons with the Angels, has not discussed the subject in a public forum since issuing a statement on March 25 saying he was “very saddened and shocked that someone I trusted did this.

(Photo: Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)