Shohei Ohtani interpreter scandal: Piecing together the confusing timeline, based on what we’ve been told so far

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LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 14: Shohei Ohtani answers questions and Ippei Mizuhara translates during a Los Angeles Dodgers press conference at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, December 14, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Rob Leiter/MLB Photo via Getty Images)

The scandal surrounding Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter was as confusing as it was shocking. (Photo by Rob Leiter/MLB Photo via Getty Images)

MLB kicked off its season on Wednesday morning with its biggest superstar, Shohei Ohtani, leading the Los Angeles Dodgers to victory. Then came the scam.

Notably, Ohtani’s longtime interpreter and friend, Ippei Mizuhara, was fired by the Dodgers after he was reported to have stolen millions of dollars from the two-way phenom to cover his gambling debts. The story shocked the baseball world when it suddenly broke Wednesday, and it only grew more confusing as details emerged.

A lengthy report from ESPN revealed that there was apparently a bizarre situation behind the scenes, all of it centered on the claim that Ohtani had agreed to cover Mizuhara’s debts. A spokesperson for Ohtani reportedly claimed the matter belonged to ESPN, but this was reversed a day later and the slugger’s legal team was involved.

It should be noted that everyone involved in the story has said that Ohtani does not gamble, including Mizuhara and the alleged illegal bookmakers involved in the story. MLB players are allowed to gamble on sports that are not baseball, but not by illegal means. ESPN, citing sources in the gambling operation, claimed that Boyer dealt directly with Mizuhara for bets on football and other non-baseball sports.

In the interest of clarity, here’s the story chronologically, as it was told in the ESPN report, along with some background information.

2013: Ohtani and Mizuhara meet in Japan

When we say Ohtani and Mizuhara go back a long way, we mean the beginning of Ohtani’s professional career in Japan. In 2013, Ohtani played his rookie year for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters and met Mizuhara, who began working as an interpreter for American player Chris Martin that season.

2018: Ohtani moves to MLB, brings Mizuhara with him

With great fanfare, Ohtani signed with the Los Angeles Angels, who hired Mizuhara to serve as Ohtani’s interpreter. Over the next six years, Ohtani wins Rookie of the Year and two MVP awards, while Mizuhara translates for him and serves in various other capacities, including home run derby catcher and workout partner.

2021: Mizuhara meets Bowyer

Mizuhara, who was reportedly betting on DraftKings, meets bookie Matthew Boyer at a poker game in San Diego. He later claimed that he believed it was legal to bet with Boyer, as he allegedly did. Very.

September-October 2023: $1 million sent to Bowyer in Ohtani’s name

Bank records show Ohtani’s name was on two $500,000 wire transfers sent to an associate of Boyer’s. The details section of the transfer reads “Loan”. An ESPN source claims Boyer led people to believe Ohtani was a client to help his business.

Mizuhara later claimed that this was done after Ohtani agreed to cover his $4.5 million gambling debts. Ohtani was reportedly “not happy” but said he would help ensure Mizuhara did not do it again. It was also said that Ohtani had logged onto his computer and sent telegrams under Mizuhara’s supervision:

When asked why Ohtani did not give the money to Boyer’s associate instead of paying him directly, Mizuhara said that Ohtani did not trust him with money matters.

“He didn’t want me to gamble it away,” Mizuhara said.

Mizuhara said he told Ohtani he would pay him back.

October 2023: Boyer’s house raided

Boyer’s home has been raided by federal authorities, with a search warrant listing cash, casino chips, banking documents, a money counting machine, multiple computers, portable storage devices and cellphones seized by agents.

December 2023: Ohtani signs with the Dodgers

Ohtani broke the record for the largest MLB contract with a 10-year, $700 million deal with Los Angeles, with $680 million deferred to be paid after the term of the contract.

January 2024: Feds look at Ohtani’s name in Boyer’s operation

The same federal authorities discovered Ohtani’s name was on the wire payment.

March 19: Mizuhara spoke to ESPN

ESPN eventually gets wind of the story and contacts Ohtani’s camp while the star is in South Korea. Crucially, a spokesperson told ESPN that Ohtani transferred money to cover Mizuhara’s gambling debts, then made Mizuhara available for a 90-minute interview, in which he tells the alleged story:

“Obviously, he [Ohtani] I wasn’t happy with it and he said he would help me make sure I never did it again,” Mizuhara said. “He decided to make it pay for me.”

“I want everyone to know that Shohei had no involvement in betting. I want people to know that I had no idea it was illegal. I learned my lesson the hard way. I will never play sports again. “Won’t bet.”

March 20: A lot happens

Well, it might be best to pass it through the Lightning Round:

  1. Ohtani helped lead the Dodgers to a season-opening 5–2 win over the San Diego Padres.

  2. An ESPN reporter asked the Ohtani camp about Mizuhara’s allegation that Ohtani was present and had helped transfer the money and was going to be paid back.

  3. Ohtani’s spokesperson contacted Ohtani’s lawyers, then rejected Mizuhara’s account.

  4. Ohtani’s lawyers at Burke Brettler LLP released a statement: “While responding to recent media inquiries, we learned that Shohei has been the victim of a grand theft, and we are turning the matter over to the authorities.”

  5. Mizuhara agreed to another interview with ESPN but says that when asked if he had been accused of theft he was told he could not comment. He refused to say who told him this.

  6. Mizuhara then repeated his story, claiming that Ohtani had no knowledge of his gambling activities or loans and that Ohtani had not made the wire transfers.

  7. This story was published by the Los Angeles Times, which has received this statement.

  8. Mizuhara is fired.

It is unclear when the second Mizuhara interview took place in relation to subsequent events, but the exact order does not change the story. On Tuesday, Ohtani’s camp said that the player was helping Mizuhara with gambling debts, and on Wednesday, the same camp said that Mizuhara made it all up and is a thief.

That change in the story, naturally, led to a flood of conspiracy theories about Ohtani’s involvement in gambling, but reported details independent of Mizuhara’s account are consistent with the idea that the interpreter was the one who was involved in the illegal gambling. Was gambling formally. Of course, that doesn’t mean there isn’t something else going on behind the scenes.

It’s also worth noting that using a wire “that entitles the recipient to receive money or credit as a result of a wager or wager” is explicitly listed as a violation in the US Criminal Code that results in a fine. Or imprisonment up to two years. , which may explain the situation after Mizuhara said that Ohtani himself sent the wire transfer.

This probably wasn’t what the Dodgers and MLB were envisioning in the immediate aftermath of Ohtani’s debut in Dodger blue.

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