Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Explaining gambling scandal after Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter accused of stealing millions from Dodgers star

Dodgers superstar Shohei Ohtani has allegedly been the victim of “massive theft” in the range of millions of dollars, according to the Los Angeles Times. Ohtani and his representatives have reportedly accused his now-former interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, of stealing funds from the athlete in order to place bets with an illegal bookmaker. Said bookmaker is purported to be the target of a federal investigation. 

The Dodgers have fired Mizuhara, who was with Ohtani as recently as Wednesday during the Seoul Series in South Korea. Mizuhara has been working with Ohtani since he signed with the Angels in 2017.

“The Dodgers are aware of media reports and are gathering information,” a spokesperson said in a statement late Wednesday. “The team can confirm that interpreter Ippei Mizuhara has been terminated. The team has no further comment at this time.”

Here’s everything you need to know about the ongoing scandal:

Lawyers’ accusations

The bookmaker, named by the Times as Mathew Bowyer of Orange County, reportedly surfaced in a federal investigation along with Ohtani’s name. The Times was reportedly investigating the matter and that caused Ohtani’s lawyers to look into the matter and discover the alleged theft, in order to gamble with Bowyer, by Mizuhara. Bowyer’s home was raided by federal agents last year, the Times reported. The same prosecutors have been investigating a large gambling operation in the area, one that has even roped in former Dodgers player Yasiel Puig, though it’s unclear if the two are formally related. 

“In the course of responding to recent media inquiries, we discovered that Shohei has been the victim of a massive theft and we are turning the matter over to the authorities,” a spokesperson for Berk Brettler law firm told CBS Sports in a statement Wednesday.

Bowyer’s lawyer, Diane Bass, told the Times the following: “Mathew Bowyer never met, spoke with, or texted, or had contact in any way with Shohei Ohtani.”

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles declined to comment when reached by CBS Sports.

Interpreter’s response

Mizuhara, however, offered a different explanation in an interview with ESPN, claiming that he had asked Ohtani to cover his gambling debts, which the outlet reported totaled more than $4.5 milion.

Mizuhara said that he previously had placed bets via DraftKings and assumed bets placed through Bowyer were legal.

“Obviously, he [Ohtani] wasn’t happy about it and said he would help me out to make sure I never do this again,” Mizuhara said. “He decided to pay it off for me.”

“I want everyone to know Shohei had zero involvement in betting. I want people to know I did not know this was illegal. I learned my lesson the hard way. I will never do sports betting ever again.”

Then, according to ESPN, Mizuhara changed his story again, claiming instead that Ohtani “had no knowledge of his gambling debts and that Ohtani had not transferred money to the bookmaker’s associate.”

Mizuhara claimed to ESPN that he never gambled on baseball and instead bet on international soccer, the NBA, the NFL and college football. A Dodgers spokesperson told the outlet that Mizuhara met with the team after Wednesday’s game and told players he had a gambling addiction.

California voters rejected two separate propositions in 2022 that would have legalized sports gambling in the state. The first, Proposition 26, would have legalized sports betting at tribal casinos, while Proposition 27 would have legalized online and mobile sports betting. Both were voted down.

MLB rules

Per MLB policy, no employee is allowed to gamble on baseball (or softball, aka the “diamond sports”). They are permitted to legally gamble on other sports, as Mizuhara claimed he did, but here’s the pertinent rule to this incident: 

Any player, umpire, or Club or League official or employee who places bets with illegal book makers, or agents for illegal book makers, shall be subject to such penalty as the Commissioner deems appropriate in light of the facts and circumstances of the conduct. Any player, umpire, or Club or League official or employee who operates or works for an illegal bookmaking business shall be subject to a minimum of a one-year suspension by the Commissioner. For purposes of this provision, an illegal bookmaker is an individual who accepts, places or handles wagers on sporting events from members of the public as part of a gaming operation that is unlawful in the jurisdiction in which the bets are accepted. 

“Ohtani is not currently facing discipline,” an MLB official told The Athletic.  

Who is Mizuhara?

For more on Ohtani’s now-former interpreter, here are some details.

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