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Shohei Ohtani’s former interpreter Ippei Mizuhara reaches plea agreement on 2 federal charges

Shohei Ohtani with interpreter Ippei Mizuhara during the press conference on  December 14, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.
Aude Guerrucci/Reuters via CNN Newsource
Shohei Ohtani with interpreter Ippei Mizuhara during the press conference on December 14, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.

Originally Published: 08 MAY 24 16:48 ET

Updated: 08 MAY 24 17:30 ET

By Steve Almasy and Cheri Mossburg, CNN

(CNN) — The former interpreter and longtime friend of MLB megastar Shohei Ohtani has agreed to plead guilty to illegally transferring almost $17 million from the Los Angeles Dodgers player’s bank account, according to a news release from the US Department of Justice.

Ippei Mizuhara will plead guilty to one count of bank fraud and one count of filing a false income tax return, the Justice Department said.

“From no later than November 2021 to March 2024, Mizuhara used Ohtani’s password to successfully sign into the bank account and then changed the account’s security protocols without Ohtani’s knowledge or permission,” the Justice Department said. “In total, Mizuhara called the bank and impersonated Ohtani on approximately 24 occasions.”

According to a court document, Mizuhara “fraudulently transferred and willfully caused to be transferred approximately $16.5 million.”

Prosecutors alleged Mizuhara used money to pay off illegal gambling debts and other expenses. CNN has reached out to Mizuhara’s attorney for comment on the plea agreement.

A spokesperson for Ohtani declined to comment.

“The extent of this defendant’s deception and theft is massive,” US Attorney Martin Estrada said Wednesday. “He took advantage of his position of trust to take advantage of Mr. Ohtani … My office is committed to vindicating victims throughout our community and ensuring that wrongdoers face justice.”

Mizuhara could be deported as he is not a United States citizen, the plea agreement and the US attorney’s office said.

Mizuhara is a legal permanent resident who has a green card, the US Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California told CNN.

The allegations against Mizuhara became public while the Dodgers were in South Korea for an MLB season-opening series in March. ESPN and the Los Angeles Times reported Ohtani’s lawyers accused Mizuhara of “massive theft” of millions of dollars and placing bets with a bookie under federal investigation.

Ohtani, who speaks no English, has played in the United States since 2018, first for the Los Angeles Angels before signing a record-breaking contract with the Dodgers. Prosecutors have said he is a victim in this case and did nothing illegal.

Ohtani became a household name even among non-baseball fans when as a free agent he signed a historic $700 million, 10-year contract with the Dodgers before this season.

The sentence for bank fraud is up to 30 years in federal prison while filing a false tax return is punishable by up to three years in prison.

The Justice Department said Mizuhara has admitted he owes more than $1.1 million in taxes for 2022 and the IRS Criminal Investigation and Homeland Security Investigations are investigating.

CNN’s Taylor Romine contributed to this report.

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