Sunday, July 21, 2024

Shohei Ohtani investigation: MLB begins formal probe into gambling scandal, Dodgers star can still play

Major League Baseball has launched an investigation concerning Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani and the alleged “massive theft” committed by his former interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, the league announced Friday. MLB has not placed Ohtani on administrative leave and he remains an active player.

“Major League Baseball has been gathering information since we learned about the allegations involving Shohei Ohtani and Ippei Mizuhari from the news media,” MLB said in a statement. “Earlier today, our Department of Investigations (DOI) began their formal process investigating the matter.”

Ohtani, Mizuhara, and the Dodgers were in Seoul, South Korea, for the two-game Seoul Series with the San Diego Padres when the story broke on March 19. Mizuhara was fired immediately.

Mizuhara is alleged to have taken upwards of $4.5 million from Ohtani through a series of wire transfers. The funds were used to cover gambling debts and were sent to an illegal bookmaker, Mathew Bowyer, in California. Bowyer is under federal investigation and Ohtani’s name surfaced in the matter while it was being investigated by the Los Angeles Times.

Bowyer’s lawyer, Diane Bass, told CBS Sports the following: “Mr. Bowyer had no contact with Mr. Ohtani.”

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

Initially, Mizuhara said Ohtani paid his gambling debts at his request. Mizuhara changed his story soon thereafter and said Ohtani had no knowledge of the payments. Ohtani’s lawyers discovered the missing money and alerted the authorities.

“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 on March 20.

MLB players and team employees are allowed to legally gamble on sports other than baseball and softball, however Rule 21(f) expressly forbids associating with illegal bookmakers regardless of betting activity. Anyone who violates Rule 21(f) is “subject to such penalty as the Commissioner deems appropriate in light of the facts and circumstances of the conduct.”

Sports betting is illegal in California.   

Mizuhara says he bet on international soccer as well as the NBA, NFL, and college basketball, but never baseball. He also says he believed the bets he placed with Bowyer were legal.

Mizuhara and Ohtani first met in 2013, five years before Ohtani made the jump from Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball to Major League Baseball. Mizuhara was Ohtani’s interpreter throughout his time with the Los Angeles Angels and he joined the Dodgers upon Ohtani’s signing with the club this past offseason. Here’s more on Mizuhara.

Ohtani, 29, signed a record 10-year, $700 million contract with the Dodgers. The deal includes heavy deferrals — Ohtani will be paid only $2 million a year from 2024-33, with the rest paid out in $68 million annual installments from 2034-43. He reportedly makes more than $50 million per year in endorsements.

CBS Sports will update this story as more information becomes available

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