Skip to main content
Ippei Mizuhara departs federal court after his arraignment in Los Angeles after pleading not guilty to bank and tax fraud in the wide-ranging sports betting case related to alleged theft from MLB superstar Shohei Ohtani.
Ippei Mizuhara departs federal court after his arraignment in Los Angeles on May 14, 2024. Photo by Frederic J. Brown via AFP

Ippei Mizuhara, the former interpreter for MLB superstar Shohei Ohtani, pleaded not guilty to bank and tax fraud in an arraignment Tuesday in Los Angeles. He is still expected to enter a plea agreement with federal prosecutors in the high-profile sports betting case. None of his bets were placed legally through our best sports betting sites.

Mizuhara, 39, is accused of stealing nearly $17M from the Japanese two-way star - at times impersonating Ohtani to bankers - to pay off nearly $41M in gambling debts linked to an illegal California sports betting operation. He was formally charged with one count of bank fraud, which carries a max sentence of 30 years, and one count of submitting a false tax return, which carries a three-year max sentence.

While Mizuhara pleaded not guilty to those charges in federal court on Tuesday, he had already signed a plea deal on May 5 that includes full restitution to Ohtani and the IRS totaling nearly $18M and could result in a reduced sentence. It will also likely result in Mizuhara's deportation to Japan, where he was born.

Defense attorney Michael Freeman told the judge Tuesday that Mizuhara planned to plead guilty in the future. He and Mizuhara both declined further comment.

Mizuhara accused of 'massive theft'

Tuesday's arraignment could help end one of the biggest sports betting scandals since the Supreme Court lifted the federal ban on wagering in 2018.

On March 20, hours after the Los Angeles Dodgers opened their season in Seoul, South Korea, the team fired Mizuhara after allegations of "massive theft" from Ohtani, who signed a record-setting 10-year, $700 million contract with the Dodgers in December. That came after news reports that a payment of at least $4.5 million was sent from Ohtani's accounts to an alleged illegal bookmaker in California.

Three weeks later, federal authorities charged Mizuhara with bank fraud, releasing a 37-page affidavit detailing the allegations against Ohtani's longtime interpreter and personal assistant of sorts.

According to the complaint, Mizuhara placed roughly 19,000 bets between November 2021 and January 2024, winning over $142 million but losing nearly $183 million - a net loss of just under $41 million. None were placed legally through our best sports betting apps, instead operating through "Bookmaker 1" and "Bookmaker 2," per the affidavit.

The first is assumed to be Mathew Bowyer, an alleged illegal bookmaker in Southern California. The second is reality TV star Ryan Boyajian, a current cast member on "The Real Housewives of Orange County," to whom Mizuhara paid via marker accounts at Resort World casinos to pay off his gambling debts, according to an ESPN investigation earlier this month.

Mizuhara surrendered to authorities on April 12, a day after the charges were filed. He has since been free on an unsecured $25,000 bond and is not expected to face trial, which would be set for July 3 if not for the plea deal.

No evidence of Ohtani wrongdoing

Crucially, Mizuhara is not accused of betting on baseball, which would add another layer of complexity during a time of heightened vigilance across the sports betting scene.

In April, the NBA banned Toronto Raptors Jontay Porter for life after an investigation revealed that he bet on NBA games and limited his participation for betting purposes. The same company that helped uncover that scandal flagged irregularities with Temple men's basketball in March and Alabama baseball last spring, resulting in the dismissal of head coach Brad Bohannon in May 2023.

There is no evidence that Ohtani placed bets or had any knowledge of Mizuhara's betting activity, per federal authorities, who say the Dodgers star has been cooperative with the investigation.

Ohtani, a two-time unanimous MVP, has been vocal about the "lies" told by Mizuhara, whom he hired as his personal interpreter when he signed with the Los Angeles Angels in 2017. On Tuesday, the day of Mizuhara's arraignment, he told reporters he'd lost sleep over the ordeal but has finally found a "consistent routine" in his first season with the Dodgers.

Entering Thursday, Ohtani was slashing .452/.531/.857 with five home runs in 11 games in May - two fewer home runs that he hit in his first 32 starts of the season. He remains the second-favorite behind teammate Mookie Betts by the latest MLB MVP odds.