Los Angeles Dodgers player Shohei Ohtani stands with his agent Nez Balelo (left) and interpreter Ippei Mizuhara at an introductory press conference at Dodger Stadium. Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

While the Los Angeles Dodgers are currently taking on the San Diego Padres in Seoul, South Korea for the 2024 Seoul Series, the team made an eye-popping move on Wednesday.

The Dodgers fired Shohei Ohtani‘s longtime interpreter Ippei Mizuhara amid allegations of massive gambling theft against the Major League Baseball superstar.

The Los Angeles Times and ESPN’s Tisha Thompson were among the first to break the story.

Iliana Limon Romero of the LA Times helped bring everyone’s attention to the developing story, noting that investigative reporters Gustavo Arellano, Adam Elmahrek, Paul Pringle, and Nathan Fenno helped piece together the story on Ohtani’s longtime interpreter being accused of “massive theft” tied to gambling debt.

Thompson later offered a significant update from the first one, reporting that the Dodgers had decided to fire Mizuhara outright.

“Ippei Mizuhara, the longtime friend and interpreter for Ohtani, incurred gambling debts to a Southern California bookmaking operation that is under federal investigation,” ESPN’s Tisha Thompson wrote.

Mizuhara’s story started to unravel when reporters began asking about wire transfers made in Ohtani’s name to Southern California bookmaker Mathew Bowyer.

Initially, a spokesman for Ohtani told ESPN the slugger had transferred the funds to cover Mizuhara’s gambling debt. The spokesman presented Mizuhara to ESPN for a 90-minute interview Tuesday night, during which Mizuhara laid out his account in great detail. However, as ESPN prepared to publish the story Wednesday, the spokesman disavowed Mizuhara’s account and said Ohtani’s lawyers would issue a statement.

“In the course of responding to recent media inquiries, we discovered that Shohei has been the victim of a massive theft, and we are turning the matter over to the authorities,” read the statement from Berk Brettler LLP.

While sports gambling is now legal in most U.S. states, California is not one of them. Illegal bookmakers like the operation that Bowyer reportedly ran often accept bets on credit, something that government-regulated sportsbooks cannot do. That’s how Mizuhara ended up owning such a substantial amount of money as his losses accumulated.

Mizuhara initially told reporters that Ohtani had offered to pay off his gambling debt. However, when speaking with reporters on Wednesday, he told ESPN that Ohtani did not know of his gambling debts. Ohtani’s reps were later asked about the arrangement and referred to it as a “massive theft” and that the baseball star was the unknowing victim.

The conflict between the initial story and the current story is sure to lead to some further digging from reporters. As Thompson notes in her piece, Mizuhara and Ohtani are friends outside of their business relationship and the interpreter is known to run errands for Ohtani. One former teammate said that the two-way player and interpreter had a “brotherhood” beyond friendship.

Sports gambling scandals are starting to pop up more frequently as accessibility to gambling has unleashed a sometimes dissatisfying and sordid amount of oversaturation. Professional sports leagues and franchises have been all too happy to get into bed with sports betting companies despite the potential risks. In terms of when a massive sports betting scandal might happen, some think it’s just a matter of when. 


About Chris Novak

Chris Novak has been talking and writing about sports ever since he can remember. Previously, Novak wrote for and managed sites in the SB Nation network for nearly a decade from 2013-2022