Baseball star Ohtani’s lawyers: Interpreter stole for illegal sports betting

The Los Angeles Times broke the story today (20 March) claiming baseball superstar Ohtani’s lawyers are accusing the ballplayer’s interpreter Ippei Mizuhara of “massive theft” for illegal sports betting.

According to the Times report, learning of the theft was incidental after Ohtani’s name turned up during an investigation into Michael Bowyer.

“Millions” of dollars involved in illegal sports betting investigation

Two sources told the newspaper that “millions of dollars” were involved. Federal agents “raided” Bowyer’s Orange County, California. home last year as part of an illegal sports betting investigation, and the Times discovered Ohtani’s name came up in that investigation.

According to an ESPN report, $4.5m was wired out of Ohtani’s account to an illegal bookmaker’s account. And Ohtani spokesman initially told ESPN the wire transfers were to cover the interpreter’s gambling debts, but later said that Ohtani was the victim of a “massive theft.”

Bowyer’s lawyer told the Times her client, who has not been charged with a crime, never had any contact with Ohtani.

The investigation into Bowyer may be related to a larger investigation around a larger illegal bookmaking ring based in Orange County and involving former minor league baseball player Wayne Nix.

Ex-Los Angeles Dodger Yasiel Puig was charged in that investigation, but has pleaded not guilty to illegal sports betting. Two sources told the Times that Ippei Mizuhara, the interpreter, placed bets with Boyer. It’s not clear what sports Mizuhara wagered on, how much he bet, how often, or when.

Illegal sports betting beginning to permeate pro sports

Ohtani is currently in Korea for a season-opening series against the San Diego Padres in Seoul. He signed the richest contract in baseball during the offseason, when he agreed to a 10-year, $700m deal with the Dodgers after six seasons with the Los Angeles Angels. The Dodgers fired Mizuhara, a spokesman told the Times.

Sports betting is illegal in California, and violates Major League Baseball’s rules, which prohibit players, officials, and team or MLB officials or employees from betting on baseball where wagering is legal, or placing illegal sports bets.

Since the US Supreme Court in 2018 make sports betting a states rights issue and 35+ U.S. jurisdictions now offer it, illegal sports betting has begun to permeate pro sports.

Last year, the NFL suspended 10 players and the NHL suspended one for illegal wagering. In December 2023, a former Jacksonville Jaguars employee was accused of embezzling $22m from the team to support a gambling habit.

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