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Authorities: Ohtani's former translator stole $16M

MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images / MediaNews Group / Getty

Ippei Mizuhara, the former translator of Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani, was charged with bank fraud, federal authorities said Thursday, according to ESPN's Alden Gonzalez and Paula Lavigne.

Mizuhara will surrender to authorities on Friday, a U.S. Attorney spokesperson told The Athletic's Sam Blum. He'll have a bond hearing later Friday but will likely be arraigned at a future date.

Authorities said Mizuhara transferred more than $16 million from Ohtani's accounts to pay off debts to an illegal sports book.

Mizuhara is accused of lying to a financial institution to steal the money and impersonating Ohtani to convince the bank to approve the wire transfers, U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada said, per Blum.

Mizuhara also lied to Ohtani's agent, Nez Balelo, who asked him about the purpose of the account in question on multiple occasions, according to the Los Angeles Times' Bill Shaikin.

Mizuhara admitted to bookmakers via text messages that he stole from Ohtani, investigators found.

"At this point, Mr. Ohtani is considered a victim in this case," Estrada said, according to The Athletic's Fabian Ardaya.

Estrada added, "Mr. Ohtani has cooperated fully and completely in this investigation."

Mizuhara made the bets between 2021 and 2024 from accounts he set up, per Gonzalez. The bets "do not appear to have been made on the sport of baseball," Estrada said.

Mizuhara deposited winnings from his bets into his own account, according to Blum.

Bank fraud carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison. Mizuhara is scheduled to appear in federal court in the coming days, Blum adds.

The Los Angeles Dodgers fired Mizuhara on March 20 after he was first accused of stealing from Ohtani.

During a March 25 press conference, Ohtani said Mizuhara stole his money without his knowledge and "told lies." Ohtani also said he never bet on sports himself, nor did he ask anyone to make bets for him.

Major League Baseball did not provide an update on its own investigation into the scandal, which began after the initial news broke, on Thursday. However, the league did acknowledge the charges laid against Mizuhara.

"According to (the federal) investigation, Shohei Ohtani is considered a victim of fraud and there is no evidence that he authorized betting with an illegal bookmaker," MLB said in a statement obtained by Shaikin.

The league added, "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 needed."

Mizuhara and Ohtani had worked together since the two-way star joined the Los Angeles Angels in 2018. The pair joined the Dodgers in December after Ohtani signed a 10-year, $700-million contract.

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