Advertisement

Shohei Ohtani's ex-interpreter released on bond in federal bank fraud case

The former interpreter for Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani who faces federal charges for allegedly stealing millions from MLB's highest-paid player in a gambling scheme, was ordered to attend gambling addiction counseling and released on bond following his first court appearance on Friday.

Ippei Mizuhara was charged with bank fraud for allegedly stealing more than $16 million from Ohtani to "finance his voracious appetite for illegal sports betting," United States Attorney Martin Estrada said during a press briefing on Thursday.

Estrada claimed Mizuhara committed fraud on a "massive scale" to "plunder" Ohtani's bank account to pay for his gambling debts.

Mizuhara surrendered to federal authorities on Friday and his bond was set at $25,000 during his initial court appearance Friday afternoon. The terms of his probation bar him from gambling and require that he attend gambling addiction counseling and find and retain employment, among other conditions. He must also not have any contact with witnesses or victims in the case, including Ohtani.

Mizuhara waived his right to a preliminary hearing and was released on bond. He is scheduled to return to court on May 9 for a post-indictment hearing.

His attorney, Michael Freedman, said in a statement to ABC News following the initial appearance that Mizuhara is "continuing to cooperate with the legal process and is hopeful that he can reach an agreement with the government to resolve this case as quickly as possible so that he can take responsibility."

"He wishes to apologize to Mr. Ohtani, the Dodgers, Major League Baseball, and his family," the statement continued. "As noted in court, he is also eager to seek treatment for his gambling."

PHOTO: Shohei Ohtani #17 of the Los Angeles Dodgers and interpreter Ippei Mizuhara arrive to a game against the Chicago White Sox at Camelback Ranch Feb. 27, 2024 in Glendale, Arizona. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Shohei Ohtani #17 of the Los Angeles Dodgers and interpreter Ippei Mizuhara arrive to a game against the Chicago White Sox at Camelback Ranch Feb. 27, 2024 in Glendale, Arizona. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Mizuhara had helped Ohtani, who did not speak or understand English, set up his bank account in 2018 in Arizona and "used that familiarity" to later steal the funds from Ohtani to help pay for illegal sports bets, the DOJ alleged. He is accused of wiring more than $16 million in unauthorized transfers from Ohtani's checking account from November 2021 to January 2024, the DOJ said. He is also accused of impersonating Ohtani over the phone with the bank to approve wire transfers to the bookmakers, the DOJ said.

Estrada stressed that Ohtani is considered a victim in the case and has cooperated "fully and completely" in the investigation.

"There is no evidence to indicate that Mr. Ohtani authorized the over $16 million of transfers from his account to the bookmakers," Estrada said.

The bets did not appear to be on baseball, authorities said. Any winnings were deposited in Mizuhara's own personal bank account, not any account owned by Ohtani, and the ex-interpreter allegedly admitted to a bookmaker stealing from Ohtani, according to Estrada. Ohtani also provided his cellphone to investigators, who did not find any evidence to suggest that he was aware of or involved in the illegal gambling activity, the DOJ said.

"Our investigation has revealed that due to the position of trust that he occupied with Mr. Ohtani, Mr. Mizuhara had unique access to Mr. Ohtani's finances," Estrada said. "Mr. Mizuhara used and abused that position of trust in order to take advantage of Mr. Ohtani."

Bank fraud carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, Estrada said.

The federal investigation is being conducted by the Los Angeles offices of IRS Criminal Investigation and Homeland Security Investigations, the main investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

MORE: Shohei Ohtani's interpreter fired following 'massive theft' allegations tied to gambling: What we know

The Dodgers announced they had fired the Japanese interpreter on March 20, after the gambling controversy surfaced. The team did not provide a specific reason for Mizuhara's termination.

MLB announced it was investigating the situation two days after the Dodgers fired 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," MLB said in a statement on Thursday in response to the charges filed against Mizuhara.

Ohtani addressed the scandal for the first time on March 25 during a press conference. In a prepared statement, Ohtani said through an interpreter, "I am very saddened and shocked that someone who I trusted has done this."

"I never bet on baseball or any other sports," Ohtani continued. "I never asked somebody to do that on my behalf and I have never went through a bookmaker to bet on sports."

MORE: Shohei Ohtani says he never bet on sports, provides new details in controversy with former interpreter

The 29-year-old pitching and hitting star, who signed a $700 million deal in the offseason to join the Dodgers, claimed he did not know about Mizuhara's gambling until after a Dodgers game in Korea the prior week.

"Up until a couple days ago, I didn't even know that this was happening," he said at the time.

Mizuhara had worked with the Dodgers as Ohtani's interpreter after serving in the same capacity with the Angels. Ohtani and Mizuhara's relationship dates back to 2013 when Ohtani played for the Nippon-Ham Fighters of Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball League and Mizuhara was an interpreter for the team.

Ohtani has played for the Dodgers throughout the scandal, batting .333 with three home runs and eight RBIs for National League-leading Los Angeles. He is not pitching this season as he recovers from elbow surgery.

ABC News' Alex Stone and Izzy Alvarez contributed to this report.

Shohei Ohtani's ex-interpreter released on bond in federal bank fraud case originally appeared on abcnews.go.com