Officials: Ippei Mizuhara Stole $325,000 From Shohei Ohtani To Go On Baseball Card Buying Spree

Ippei Mizuhara, the former interpreter for Los Angeles Dodgers superstar Shohei Ohtani, was charged Thursday for allegedly stealing $16 million from the two-time Most Valuable Player to cover gambling bets and debts. Tucked away in the 37-page affidavit, and which caught the attention of collectors, is that Mizuhara purportedly stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from Ohtani’s bank account to buy baseball cards.

Using the alias “Jay Min,” Mizuhara bought at least 1,000 baseball cards from eBay and WhatNot and got them shipped to the Dodgers clubhouse, the affidavit reads. Mizuhara allegedly told a club employee he would be receiving these packages under an alias and to set them inside.

Shohei Ohtani
Oakland, California – August 10, 2022: Los Angeles Angels DH Shohei Ohtani and translator Ippei Mizuhara walk on the field before a game against the Oakland Athletics at the Oakland Coliseum. (Credit: Conor P. Fitzgerald on Shutterstock)

Federal authorities say, between January and March of this year, Mizuhara stole $325,000 from Ohtani’s account to buy these cards, which included Yogi Berra, Juan Soto and Ohtani himself. Officials believe Mizuhara was going to resell the cards at some point.

During Thursday’s press conference, U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada says Mizuhara was the “de facto manager” for Ohtani since the two were essentially inseparable.

“I want to emphasize this point: Mr. Ohtani is considered a victim in this case,” says Estrada. “There is no evidence to indicate that Mr. Ohtani authorized the over $16 million of transfers from his account to the bookmakers.”

Ohtani allegedly first learned about the issue when Mizuhara addressed the Dodgers clubhouse during their opening series in Seoul, South Korea, saying he had a gambling addiction and that Ohtani paid off his debts.

Federal authorities say Mizuhara placed around 19,000 wagers between December 2021 and January 2024 — an astounding 25 bets daily. Investigators say Mizuhara won over $142 million, but lost nearly $183 million — a net loss of over $40 million. The winning bets would be deposited into Mizuhara’s account, not Ohtani’s.

In a statement, Major League Baseball says, “We are aware of the charges filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office against Mr. Mizuhara for bank fraud after a thorough federal investigation. According to that investigation, Shohei Ohtani is considered a victim of fraud and there is no evidence that he authorized betting with an illegal bookmaker. Further, the investigation did not find any betting on baseball by Mr. Mizuhara. Given the information disclosed today, and other information we have already collected, we will wait until resolution of the criminal proceeding to determine whether further investigation is warranted.”

Mizuhara became Ohtani’s interpreter and right-hand man in 2018 after the two-way superstar came from Japan and signed with the Los Angeles Angels.

“Mizuhara has interpreted for Ohtani since the star moved to the United States in 2018, accompanying the two-way player in dugouts, locker rooms, player lounges, on trips, in media settings and elsewhere, making Mizuhara highly recognizable to baseball fans,” ESPN’s Tisha Thompson wrote. “He has been the interpreter for Ohtani with team managers and coaches and goes over scouting reports with Ohtani during games. The two are rarely separated. Mizuhara runs errands for the pitcher, carries his water bottle and is so ever-present that an Ohtani teammate once referred to the duo as having a ‘brotherhood’ that goes beyond friendship.”

In a March interview with ESPN, Mizuhara told the outlet that Ohtani initially paid off his gambling debt. However, he would later recant his comments, going on to say Ohtani didn’t know about the debt and that the two-time MVP did not wire money to the bookmaker. According to multiple reports, it appears Mizuhara was trying to keep Ohtani in the dark, as the baseball star would say the interpreter never told him what was happening.

The New York Times reports:

“Mizuhara, though, told Ohtani’s agent, Nez Balelo, that had discussed the matter with the player, according to Ohtani. But Mizuhara offered different versions to Balelo of what had occurred. First, Mizuhara said Ohtani had paid the debts of an unnamed teammate; then he said that he himself had racked up debts with the bookie and that Ohtani had bailed him out. The shifting stories alarmed executives in Major League Baseball, who worried that Ohtani might be tarnished by a connection to gambling.”

Ohtani signed a record-breaking 10-year, $700 million contract with the Dodgers in the offseason.

ESPN reports Mizuhara is currently in federal custody. He faces a $1 million fine and up to 30 years in prison for bank fraud.

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