Shohei Ohtani's Former Interpreter Ippei Mizuhara Pleads Not Guilty

The Dodgers disgraced former interpreter pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to bank and tax fraud, though is set to plead guilty as part of a plea deal at a future date

Jori Negin-Shecter - News Editor at
Jori Negin-Shecter • News Editor
May 15, 2024 • 18:26 ET • 4 min read
Ippei Mizuhara
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

Ippei Mizuhara, the former interpreter and close friend of MLB superstar Shohei Ohtani, pleaded not guilty to federal charges on Tuesday after allegedly stealing millions from the two-way phenom.

The arraignment, however, is expected to be largely procedural, as the 39-year-old is set to agree to plead guilty at a future undisclosed date as part of a plea deal with federal authorities.

According to the Associated Press, defense attorney Michael G. Freedman said Mizuhara planned to plead guilty in the future, though did not comment on the hearing on Tuesday ahead of the hearing.

"The extent of this defendant's deception and theft is massive," U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada said in a statement. "He took advantage of his position of trust to take advantage of Mr. Ohtani and fuel a dangerous gambling habit. My office is committed to vindicating victims throughout our community and ensuring that wrongdoers face justice."

According to reports, Mizuhara’s access to Ohtani’s bank accounts dates back to 2018, when the interpreter reportedly helped the two-way star set up an account in Arizona during Angels Spring Training as the Japanese superstar made his way over from the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters of the NPB.

The account was reportedly first tampered with sometime in 2021 with Mizuhara reportedly began betting on sports, with the interpreter “shielding access” to accounts and stating that Ohtani wished to keep the account private from the rest of his circle.

Ohtani was unaware

According to multiple reports and statements, Ohtani has been clear of any wrongdoing in the case, seemingly betrayed by a once close friend. The Dodgers two-way player released a public statement in March stating that Mizuhara had stolen the funds from his account, then followed that up by reiterating he had never bet on baseball or any other sports.

“I do want to make it clear that I never bet on sports or have willfully sent money to a bookmaker,” Ohtani said via the Dodgers' manager of performance operations, Will Ireton.” “[Mizhuara] has been stealing money from my account and has been telling lies. All of this has been a complete lie.”

The Mizuhara-Ohtani scandal marks a shocking twist to outsiders given how tight the pair had been. First introduced in 2013 upon Ohtani joining the professional ranks in his native Japan, Mizuhara remained by Ohtani’s side as an interpreter and close friend, with Ohtani even contractually requiring Mizuhara to join him after he signed with the Dodgers this offseason.

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