Ippei Mizuhara, former interpreter for MLB star Shohei Ohtani, expected to enter a plea of not guilty as a procedural step

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Ippei Mizuhara answers the media questions

The previous interpreter for Los Angeles Dodgers’ star Shohei Ohtani is likely to declare innocence on Tuesday regarding bank and tax fraud charges, a procedural move before finalizing a plea deal he’s worked out with federal prosecutors in a broader sports betting case.

According to prosecutors, Ippei Mizuhara supposedly took almost $17 million from Ohtani to settle gambling debts over several years. Allegedly, he even pretended to be the Japanese baseball player at times when dealing with banks, exploiting their close personal and professional bond.

Mizuhara reached an agreement outlining these accusations on May 5, with prosecutors making it public a few days later.

Mizuhara’s formal hearing in federal court in Los Angeles is scheduled for Tuesday. There, Judge Jean P. Rosenbluth will ask him to formally respond to charges of bank fraud and filing a false tax return.

The expected not-guilty plea is standard procedure as the legal process unfolds, despite Mizuhara’s prior agreement. It’s anticipated he will enter a guilty plea at a later stage.

Investigators found no indication that Ohtani was involved in or aware of Mizuhara’s gambling activities. The athlete is reportedly cooperating with the ongoing investigation.

Following Ohtani’s departure from a Saturday night game due to back tightness, he missed Sunday’s match as a precaution. Nonetheless, he’s having a remarkable season, hitting 11 home runs and leading the National League with a .352 batting average as of Monday’s game against the San Francisco Giants.

Ippei Mizuhara and Shohei Ohtani at an event

According to Mizuhara’s plea agreement, he’ll need to pay Ohtani back almost $17 million, along with over $1 million to the IRS. However, these figures might change before sentencing. The bank fraud charge could lead to a maximum of 30 years in federal prison, while the false tax return charge could result in up to three years.

Mizuhara’s successful bets amounted to over $142 million, deposited into his account rather than Ohtani’s. However, his losses totaled about $183 million, resulting in a net loss of nearly $41 million. , he didn’t place bets on baseball.

He’s been released on a $25,000 bond, known as a signature bond, where he didn’t have to pay any cash or provide collateral to be set free. If he breaks the bond conditions, such as not attending gambling addiction treatment, he’ll owe $25,000.

The news about his prosecution was revealed by The Los Angeles Times and ESPN in late March, leading to his dismissal by the Dodgers and an MLB investigation.

MLB regulations forbid players and team staff from betting on baseball, even if it’s legal. They’re also not allowed to bet on other sports with illegal or offshore bookmakers.

Ohtani has been concentrating on his game while the case progresses through the courts. Shortly after his former interpreter’s initial court appearance in April, he hit his 175th home run in MLB, equaling Hideki Matsui’s record for the most by a Japan-born player, in the Dodgers’ 8-7 defeat to the San Diego Padres in 11 innings.


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