MLB launches investigation into allegations around Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani and his interpreter. Here’s what we know

Major League Baseball announced it has launched an investigation into the allegations surrounding Los Angeles Dodgers two-way star Shohei Ohtani and his longtime interpreter Ippei Mizuhara on Friday.

“Major League Baseball has been gathering information since we learned about the allegations involving Shohei Ohtani and Ippei Mizuhari from the news media,” the league said in a news release. “Earlier today, our Department of Investigations (DOI) began their formal process investigating the matter.”

The longtime interpreter for Japanese baseball superstar Shohei Ohtani was fired Wednesday after the player’s lawyers accused him of “massive theft” of millions of dollars and placing bets with a bookmaker under federal investigation, according to ESPN and the Los Angeles Times, which first reported the story.

The attorneys have not detailed how they believe the funds were stolen., prompting a swirl of questions as Ohtani made his much-anticipated debut with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The scandal emerged as Ohtani played his first game with the Dodgers at their MLB season opener in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, where the team secured a 5-2 victory over the San Diego Padres.

The Dodgers confirmed Mizuhara’s firing and said they are “aware of media reports and are gathering information.” The team added it had no further comment.

As news of Mizuhara’s firing and alleged actions unfolded, both the interpreter and Ohtani’s representatives have shifted their statements given to ESPN reporters – first saying the star player was aware of his translator’s gambling debt and later that he had no knowledge or involvement.

Here’s what we know.

IRS investigating Mizuhara

The Internal Revenue Service is investigating Mizuhara, a spokesman told CNN.

“The IRS Criminal Investigation Los Angeles Field Office is involved in an investigation involving Mathew Bowyer and Ippei Mizuhara, but I cannot provide any additional detail at this time,” IRS spokesman Scott Villiard said in an email.

Mizuhara acted as Ohtani’s interpreter before he was fired by the team and Bowyer is a California resident who bankruptcy court documents show had gambling debts of $425,000 more than a decade ago.

Diane Bass, an attorney for Bowyer, told CNN her client “never had any contact with Mr. Ohtani.”

$4.5 million transferred from Ohtani’s accounts, ESPN reports

ESPN’s Tisha Thompson, citing unnamed sources, said on CNN’s “The Lead” Wednesday at least $4.5 million was withdrawn via wire transfer from Ohtani’s bank accounts, though it is unclear who initiated the transfers.

Thompson also reports sources told her Mizuhara’s sports betting dates back as early as 2021, when Ohtani was playing for the Los Angeles Angels.

When reached for comment, the Angels referred all questions to the Dodgers and Shohei’s representatives.

Ohtani played his last game with the Angels last year before signing a record-breaking 10-year, $700 million contract with the Dodgers.

A ‘big 180’ in the story, reporter says

Before news of Mizuhara’s alleged actions broke, Thomson said the interpreter and Ohtani’s representatives did “a big 180” in what they were telling her.

At first, Ohtani’s spokesperson told ESPN the player had transferred money to help pay off Mizuhara’s gambling debts, the outlet reported.

Ohtani’s representative then arranged for Thompson to interview Mizuhara on Tuesday, according to ESPN. During the interview, the interpreter said Ohtani had no involvement in his betting and Mizuhara asked the player last year to pay off his gambling debt, ESPN reported. The translator said Ohtani was unhappy with the situation but agreed to pay the debt.

But after the interview – as ESPN prepared to publish its story Wednesday – Ohtani’s spokesperson “disavowed” Mizuhara’s account and soon after released a statement saying Ohtani had been the victim of theft.

“In the course of responding to recent media inquiries, we discovered that Shohei has been the victim of a massive theft and we are turning the matter over to the authorities,” Ohtani’s law firm, Berk Brettler LLP, said.

Thompson said Mizuhara admitted lying about Ohtani being aware of his debts. He walked back much of his initial story, saying instead that Ohtani had no knowledge of the interpreter’s debts and had made no payments, ESPN reported.

CNN has sought comment from Ohtani’s agent and further comment from the Dodgers. MLB had no comment to CNN on the issue as of Thursday morning. CNN has also sought comment from Mizuhara.

A long-standing translator relationship

At the Dodgers’ game in Seoul Wednesday, Mizuhara translated for Ohtani and was seen smiling in the team’s dugout and chatting with the player.

The pair have had a lasting professional relationship. They first worked together from 2013 to 2017 when Mizuhara served as a translator for the Nippon-Ham Fighters, Ohtani’s team with Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball League, according to

When Ohtani joined the Los Angeles Angels in 2018, he asked Mizuhara to join him as his translator in the rookie season, and Mizuhara eventually followed the star to the Dodgers.

After the Dodgers’ game in Seoul Wednesday, Mizuhara apologized to the team, according to ESPN, citing an unnamed Dodgers official.

“I’ve been told (Mizuhara) says something to the effect of ‘I’m sorry. I apologize. I have a gambling problem,’” Thompson said on ESPN.

Baseball’s infamous gambling history

During the 1919 World Series, the heavily-favored Chicago White Sox were stunned 5-3 in a best-of-9 series by the Cincinnati Reds. However, a year later, eight White Sox players were accused of conspiring with gamblers to lose the Fall Classic on purpose.

They were all acquitted in a 1921 trial but were banned for life from professional baseball by then-commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis.

Another involved MLB’s all-time hits leader Pete Rose, who received a lifetime ban from the sport in 1989 for betting on Cincinnati Reds games while he was a player/manager for the team.

Rose, whose ban makes him ineligible for election to baseball’s hall of fame, admitted in his 2004 autobiography he bet on baseball while Reds manager and, three years later, told ESPN Radio he bet on the Reds to win every night.

In 2023, Americans gambled a record $119.84 billion on sports, a 27.5% increase from the previous year, according to the American Gaming Association’s Commercial Gaming Revenue Tracker.

CNN’s David Close, Jill Martin and Nick Watt contributed to this report.

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