Shohei Ohtani's translator agrees to plead guilty to stealing nearly $17 million from the baseball star

Ippei Mizuhara used the money to pay off his gambling debts. Arraignment is scheduled for May 14.

Ippei Mizuhara, a 39-year-old translator, agreed to plead guilty to federal criminal charges for illegally transferring nearly $17 million from MLB star Shohei Ohtani's bank account without the player's knowledge or permission. According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), Mizuhara used the money to pay off his gambling debts.

"Ippei Mizuhara, 39, of Newport Beach, has agreed to plead guilty to one count of bank fraud, which carries a statutory maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison, and one count of submitting a false tax return, which carries a sentence of up to three years in federal prison," the Justice Department said.

Mizuhara, faced with two charges filed Wednesday, is expected to plead guilty to the charges in the coming weeks. His arraignment is scheduled for May 14.

"The extent of this defendant’s deception and theft is massive. 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,” explained U.S. Attorney Martín Estrada.

"“Our joint investigation with Homeland Security clearly showed Mr. Mizuhara not only stole from Mr. Ohtani, but also that he lied to the IRS about his income," added Special Agent in Charge Tyler Hatcher.

According to his plea agreement, Mizuhara was Ohtani's de facto translator and manager. As part of his job, Mizuhara regularly interacted with Ohtani's non-Japanese-speaking sports agents and financial advisors on behalf of Ohtani, who does not speak English.

In that sense, the Department of Justice indicated that starting in September 2021, Mizuhara began placing sports bets at an illegal betting house. Soon after, Mizuhara began to lose and quickly fell into debt. "Unable to pay his gambling debts, Mizuhara orchestrated a scheme to deceive and defraud the bank to fraudulently obtain money from the account," the department noted.

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. Specifically, Mizuhara changed the registered email address and telephone number on the account so bank employees would call him – not Ohtani – when attempting to verify wire transfers from the account.

According to authorities, to carry out the scheme, Mizuhara posed as Ohtani and used his personally identifiable information to trick bank employees into authorizing wire transfers from the account. The DOJ highlighted that the translator called the bank and posed as Ohtani on at least 24 occasions.

During this time, Mizuhara regularly logged into Ohtani’s bank account and initiated wire transfers from the account to the bookmaker and his associates as payments for gambling debts. For example, on June 20, 2023, Mizuhara accessed the account without Ohtani’s permission and transferred $500,000 to one of the bookmaker’s associates.

From January 2024 to March 2024, Mizuhara purchased approximately $325,000 worth of baseball tickets from online resellers such as eBay from Ohtani's bank account with the intention of later reselling them for his personal benefit.

When Ohtani’s sports agent and financial advisors asked Mizuhara for access to the bank account, Mizuhara lied and said Ohtani did not want them to access the account because it was private. In fact, Mizuhara did not want them to know that he had been stealing from Ohtani and had fraudulently obtained more than $16,975,010 from him.