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Is baseball star Shohei Ohtani a victim of theft, or is he in trouble?

No charges have been filed in the case, but it comes in a sport that has had its fair share of controversy surrounding sports betting.
Is baseball star Shohei Ohtani a victim of theft, or is he in trouble?
Posted at 6:51 PM, Mar 22, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-22 20:52:16-04

Sports’ highest-paid player in history is finding himself in hot water as MLB announced Friday it is launching a formal investigation into Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani. The move comes from claims that Ohtani used money to pay down gambling debts for his interpreter.

No charges have been filed in the case, but it comes in a sport that has had its fair share of controversy surrounding sports betting.

In December, Ohtani made international headlines for money going into his account — a reported $700 million for a 10-year deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Ohtani’s interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, allegedly used $4.5 million of Ohtani’s money to pay off gambling debts to a suspected illegal bookmaker in California. According to ESPN, Ohtani had learned of the debts and agreed to bail him out by wiring funds to an associate of Mizuhara’s alleged bookmaker. Soon after that, Mizuhara retracted that version of events, according to ESPN, and said Ohtani had no knowledge of his gambling debts and had not transferred money on his behalf.

“Professional athletes don’t monitor their bank accounts, especially someone who’s got up to a $700 million contract over the next couple of years,” said Jeff Ifrah, a former federal prosecutor who now represents professional athletes as an attorney.

As federal prosecutors look into what might have happened, Ifrah says Ohtani’s camp distanced themselves from his interpreter due to optics, saying the money was stolen from his account. There have been no allegations that betting occurred on baseball games.

 “I think they were a little too quick to react to this and they really underestimated what the media and public’s response would be to it, and it only gets worse when you leave it fester,” said Ifrah.

Baseball has come under intense scrutiny for betting after would-be Hall of Famer Pete Rose was banished from the game for allegedly betting on games he had played in — one of the reasons this case has gotten so much attention, says Ifrah.

According to the Los Angeles Times, evidence on what really happened has been slow to materialize and Ohtani’s camp has not responded to questions about the alleged nature of the theft.

“As it becomes more common in the U.S. to have regulated sports betting, I think the reaction to someone being involved in gambling might be a little less shocking,” said Ifrah.

SEE MORE: Shohei Ohtani's interpreter fired after allegations of theft, gambling


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