Los Angeles Dodgers

Dodgers' Shohei Ohtani ‘sad and shocked' over interpreter gambling scandal

Former interpreter Ippei Mizuhara was fired by the Dodgers last week after accusations emerged of illegal gambling and theft.

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What to Know

  • Shohei Ohtani speaks publicly for the first time on gambling and theft accusations surrounding his former interpreter.
  • The Dodgers star said he never placed bets on baseball or other sports, and did not knowingly pay off any gambling debts.
  • The Dodgers' home-opener is Thursday against St. Louis.

Dodgers superstar Shohei Ohtani accused his former interpreter of telling lies and stealing money from his account when he spoke publicly Monday for the first time about the gambling and theft allegations.

The two-time MVP read a statement Monday afternoon at a news conference at Dodger Stadium, forcefully saying that he never placed bets on baseball or other sports. He also said he did not knowingly pay off gambling debts and didn't know about payments from his account until last week when the team was in South Korea.

The bombshell accusations against Ippei Mizuhara emerged during the Dodgers' trip to South Korea last week to open the 2024 MLB season. Mizuhara was fired by the Dodgers when the team was still in Seoul for two games against the Padres.

"Ippei has been stealing money from my account and has told lies," Ohtani said through Will Ireton, the team’s manager of performance operations who served as his interpreter during the news conference. "It's really hard to verbalize how I'm feeling at this point.

"I'm very sad and shocked that someone who I trusted has done this."

MLB has announced an investigation into the gambling scandal involving Shohei Ohtani's former interpreter. Hetty Chang reports for the NBC4 News on March 22, 2024.

Ohtani, dressed in a Dodgers cap and sweatshirt, said he found out about payments from his account when he learned of media reports looking into Mizuhara's alleged connections to an illegal bookmaker in Orange County.

“I never bet on baseball or any other sports or never have asked somebody to do it on my behalf and I have never gone through a bookmaker to bet on sports. and was never asked to assist betting payment for anyone else," Ohtani said. "All of this has been a complete lie.

"Ippei obviously basically didn’t tell me about the media inquiry. So Ippei has been telling everyone around that he has been communicating with me on this account to the media and my team and that hasn’t been true."

Ohtani spoke for roughly 12 minutes and did not take questions.

As federal investigators look into an alleged sports gambling scheme out of Orange County, NBC News confirmed $4.5 million was sent from Shohei Ohtani’s account to Matthew Bowyer, an alleged bookie based in San Juan Capistrano. NBCLA's Hetty Change reports on March 21, 2024. 

Los Angeles returned late last week from the Seoul Series ahead of an exhibition series against Ohtani's former team, the Angels. The Dodger Stadium opener is Thursday against St. Louis.

Manager Dave Roberts endorsed Ohtani addressing the matter publicly.

“It’s the right thing to do,” he said. “I’m happy he’s going to speak and speak to what he knows and give his thoughts on the whole situation. I think it will give us all a little bit more clarity.”

Mizuhara was let go from the team following reports from the Los Angeles Times and ESPN about his alleged ties to an illegal bookmaker and claims from Ohtani’s attorneys that the Japanese star had been the victim of a “massive theft.”

Major League Baseball has opened an investigation of the matter. The Internal Revenue Service has confirmed that Mizuhara and Mathew Bowyer, the alleged illegal bookmaker in Orange County, California, are under criminal investigation.

Ohtani made only a brief appearance in the Dodgers clubhouse before Sunday's Freeway Series opener against the Angels. The teams are playing three exhibition games before the Dodgers' home-opener.

Ohtani was set to bat second as the designated hitter at Dodger Stadium. He's also expected to play Monday and Tuesday in Anaheim, where he was a two-time AL MVP before leaving the Angels as a free agent to sign a record $700 million, 10-year contract with the Dodgers in December.

NBCLA has reached out to the Angels for comment, but the team said all questions should be referred to the Dodgers.

Roberts said Ohtani has not addressed his teammates as a group.

“I think that he’s had one-off conversations with players,” Roberts said.

The manager said he checked in with Ohtani to see how he's doing.

“He's kind of business as usual,” Roberts said.

Ohtani has a double locker in the Dodgers clubhouse located between the shower room and fellow Japanese pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who is slated to make his second start of the season on Saturday against St. Louis.

Extra security was posted in the jammed clubhouse on Sunday. Besides the players and a horde of media, eight temporary lockers were set up at one end for minor leaguers brought over from Arizona for the Freeway Series.

Overhead televisions were tuned to men's NCAA Tournament games, baseball and horse racing, with former Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Paul Lo Duca offering TV handicapping tips on the day's races.

The MLB gambling policy is posted in every clubhouse. Betting on baseball — legally or not — is punishable with a one-year ban from the sport. The penalty for betting on other sports illegally is at the commissioner’s discretion. Sports gambling is illegal in California, even as 38 states and the District of Columbia allow some form of it.

“The mood in the room is get ready for baseball because I don’t hear a lot of conversations and speculation,” Roberts said. “That’s why I think tomorrow is going to be good for everyone.”

The league said its investigations department had begun a formal process looking into the matter.
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