Shohei Ohtani’s translator reportedly discussing plea deal around alleged $4.5m theft

<span><a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:The Los Angeles Dodgers;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">The Los Angeles Dodgers</a>' Shohei Ohtani, right, and his former interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, were close friends before allegation of theft arose. </span><span>Photograph: Lee Jin-man/AP</span>

Shohei Ohtani’s former translator plans to plead guilty to federal crimes related to the alleged theft of money from the Los Angeles Dodgers star, the New York Times and ESPN reported on Wednesday.

Ippei Mizuhara was fired by the Dodgers last month after admitting that he stole at least $4.5m from Ohtani, the biggest star in baseball, to pay off gambling debts.

Related: ‘Beyond shocked’: Shohei Ohtani says interpreter stole from him and told lies

According to the Times and ESPN, Mizuhara’s plea agreement would include an admission that corroborates Ohtani’s version of the events – that the player never wagered on sports, had no idea that Mizuhara did so and was the victim of a “massive theft” by his former friend. A source told ESPN that Ohtani’s story around the events is accurate. MLB players are forbidden from betting on baseball, and face a lifetime ban if found to have placed a wager on their own team. They are allowed to bet on other sports in the nearly 40 US states where gambling is legal, but not in California.

Mizuhara’s attorney, Michael G Freedman, declined comment to the Times and ESPN.

The alleged theft became public knowledge when wire transfers from Ohtani’s bank account were discovered in a federal investigation of an alleged illegal bookmaker. Mizuhara initially said that Ohtani agreed to cover his gambling debts, then backtracked and admitted that Ohtani was unaware of the payment to the bookie in California.

According to the reports, the IRS, the Department of Homeland Security and the US Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California conducted a joint investigation into Mizuhara’s actions.

According to the Times, Mizuhara interacted with law-enforcement officials upon returning from South Korea after the Dodgers’ season-opening trip, but he was not arrested and his current whereabouts are unknown. The Times also says that Mizuhara changed the settings on Ohtani’s bank account so the player would not receive alerts if money was withdrawn.

Mizuhara was fired by the Dodgers while the team was in South Korea after initially telling the club that Ohtani aided him in paying off his debts. The Times says Ohtani became aware of Mizuhara’s story during a clubhouse meeting conducted in English. Although Ohtani does not speak fluent English, he understood enough of the conversation to confront Mizuhara later. It was at that point that Mizuhara allegedly admitted the theft to Ohtani.

Mizuhara had been Ohtani’s translator since the star moved from Japan to play for the Los Angeles Angels in 2018, and the pair were close friends as well as having a working relationship. Ohtani joined the Dodgers in December on a 10-year, $700m deal, and is one of the most famous people in his homeland.