MLB’s Shohei Ohtani probe: What we know about the Ippei Mizuhara gambling scandal



The tumult surrounding Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani figures only to increase as more information comes to light about the gambling scandal involving his former interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara. The scope of the story has only expanded since Ohtani’s representatives accused Mizuhara of committing “massive theft” to pay off a reported $4.5 million in debts to an alleged illegal bookmaker under federal investigation.

So many questions — about the competing timelines offered by Mizuhara, the method of Mizuhara’s alleged theft, the subject of Mizuhara’s wagering — remain unanswered. But here is what we do know, as the saga continues to unfold.

MLB is investigating Ohtani 

Just before 6 p.m. on Friday, after two days of apparent contemplation, Major League Baseball announced that after “gathering information” about “the allegations involving Shohei Ohtani and Ippei Mizuhara” its Department of Investigations had begun “their formal process investigating the matter.” The carefully worded statement avoided the direct implication that Ohtani, the sport’s biggest star and the recent recipient of a $700 million contract with the Dodgers, was under investigation. But the league is expected to attempt to look into the scandal while Ohtani’s camp pursues charges against Mizuhara.

It is unclear how much teeth the MLB investigation will have. The league cannot compel Mizuhara to conduct an interview, because he is no longer a league employee. The league can request an interview with Ohtani, who is backed by the Major League Baseball Players’ Association, but he may decline at the discretion of his counsel. The federal authorities may also not provide information to MLB while their own investigation is just beginning.

MLB is unlikely to place Ohtani under administrative leave, as is common during other investigations, because Ohtani is not currently facing allegations. Mizuhara initially claimed Ohtani approved the debt payments to Mathew Bowyer, the alleged Southern California bookmaker who is the target of a federal investigation. (Sports betting is still illegal in California, along with 11 other states.) Those payments may violate baseball’s rules, which preclude employees from placing bets with illegal bookmakers. In both accounts he provided to ESPN, Mizuhara has insisted he never bet on baseball.

The IRS is investigating Mizuhara

In a vacuum, the initial story presented by Mizuhara paints Ohtani as a wealthy friend who intervened on Mizuhara’s behalf to square his debts. Ohtani did so, Mizuhara initially claimed, in a series of nine $500,000 payments to Bowyer. Those payments, while theoretically well-meaning, may violate the federal tax code.

The IRS has opened a criminal investigation into Mizuhara, the Associated Press reported. Bowyer is also under investigation by the agency’s Los Angeles office.

Questions emerge about Mizuhara’s background 

As Ohtani’s representatives pursue charges against Mizuhara, there has been increased scrutiny on the interpreter’s background. A story in The Athletic outlined a series of inaccuracies in the resume that Mizuhara put forth in recent years. Mizuhara had said he was born in Japan, attended high school in Los Angeles and graduated from the University of California, Riverside. As first reported by NBC Los Angeles, the university indicated their records did not contain evidence that Mizuhara ever attended the school.

Mizuhara had also suggested he acted as the translator for pitcher Hideki Okajima during the spring of 2012 with the New York Yankees. But Okajima failed a physical and never attended camp with the club. The Boston Red Sox also disputed previously published reporters that Mizuhara had interpreted for Okajima during the pitcher’s tenure there.

Ohtani has yet to address situation 

The Dodgers have returned to Southern California for exhibition games against the Los Angeles Angels, Ohtani’s former team, starting on Sunday at Dodger Stadium. There are unlikely to be many questions about baseball. Ohtani has not addressed the media since the story broke. He was wary of engaging much with the press long before this scandal emerged. The Dodgers placed a pair of team officials in front of his locker to dissuade reporters from approaching him after a game in Seoul, South Korea on Thursday.

Whenever Ohtani does speak to the media, he may decline to answer questions in deference to the ongoing investigation.

The Dodgers are expected to use Will Ireton, the team’s manager of performance operations, as Ohtani’s new interpreter. Ireton was the interpreter for former Dodgers pitcher Kenta Maeda from 2016 to 2019.

(Top photo of Shohei Ohtani and Ippei MizuharaL Rob Leiter / MLB Photos via Getty Images)





Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top