Shohei Ohtani's interpreter fired after accusation of 'massive theft' from Dodgers star, per report

Shohei Ohtani's longtime interpreter has been fired after being accused of a theft, said to be in the magnitude of millions of dollars, from the Los Angeles Dodgers superstar, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Ohtani's legal team reportedly claimed that Ippei Mizuhara used the two-way phenom's funds to cover his debt from bets placed with an allegedly illegal bookmaker, Mathew Bowyer, who is currently under federal investigation.

A Dodgers spokesperson told the Times shortly after the news broke that Mizuhara had been fired.

From the Times:

In a statement, the West Hollywood law firm Berk Brettler said, “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.”

Mizuhara was working as recently as the previous night in South Korea, where he interpreted for Ohtani following the Dodgers' 5-2 win over the San Diego Padres to open the MLB season. To replace Mizuhara, the Dodgers can likely look in-house, as Yoshinobu Yamamoto has used his own Japanese interpreter since signing with the team.

Ohtani's interpreter said Dodgers star paid off $4.5 million in gambling debt, then things got weird

A subsequent ESPN report shed more light on the situation behind the scenes but also invited even more questions.

Ohtani's camp reportedly presented Mizuhara for an interview Tuesday night in Korea, where he claimed the slugger agreed to pay off at least $4.5 million in gambling debt for him last year. Mizuhara claimed he placed his bets via DraftKings before meeting Bowyer, whom he said he believed to be a legal bookmaker.

From ESPN:

"I'm terrible [at gambling.] Never going to do it again. Never won any money," Mizuhara said. "I mean, I dug myself a hole, and it kept on getting bigger, and it meant I had to bet bigger to get out of it and just kept on losing. It's like a snowball effect."

Supposedly, Ohtani was unhappy upon learning about the debt but agreed to make the payments to Bowyer's associate himself, rather than giving the money Mizuhara. The payment was supposed to be a loan to Mizuhara, who reportedly made between $300,000 and $500,000 annually working for Ohtani, with the wire's description filled out as "loan."

However, upon being asked about this account, Ohtani's camp reportedly disavowed Mizuhara, who told ESPN the next day that Ohtani had no knowledge of the gambling debt and did not make the transfer. At issue appeared to be the claim that Ohtani was directly involved in the payments, which led to the involvement of his legal team:

When an ESPN reporter asked Ohtani's camp about the allegation from Mizuhara that Ohtani was present and helped move the funds and that he was going to be paid back, the spokesman contacted Ohtani's attorneys, who then issued the statement saying he was the victim of a "massive theft."

It’s worth noting that using a wire “which entitles the recipient to receive money or credit as a result of bets or wagers” is explicitly listed in the U.S. criminal code as a violation that can result in a fine or imprisonment for up to two years, which might explain the about-face after Mizuhara said Ohtani sent the wire transfer.

ESPN reports that Bowyer dealt directly with Mizuhara, who allegedly placed bets on soccer matches and other sports — but never baseball — starting in 2021. Bowyer's attorney said he never spoke with or met Ohtani. MLB players are allowed to bet on sports other than baseball — but not with illegal bookmakers.

"I never bet on baseball," Mizuhara said. "That's 100 percent. I knew that rule. ... We have a meeting about that in spring training."

Mizuhara reportedly addressed the Dodgers clubhouse Wednesday in Korea, telling the team that a story was coming out and that it was all his fault, saying he has a gambling addiction.

Ippei Mizuhara is more than an interpreter for Shohei Ohtani

This development is a shocker for anyone who has closely followed Ohtani. Mizuhara's tenure as Ohtani's interpreter goes back to his rookie year with the Los Angeles Angels in 2018, and his tenure as his friend goes back even further. The two first met when Ohtani joined the Nippon-Ham Fighters in 2013 while Mizuhara was working as an interpreter for an English-speaking player.

Mizuhara followed Ohtani to the United States, becoming his personal interpreter and a fixture at Ohtani's side as he became the most famous baseball player on earth. He even served as Ohtani's catcher in the 2021 Home Run Derby. Mizuhara was Ohtani's voice in every public appearance and his closest friend since arriving stateside.

Ohtani brought Mizuhara with him when he signed a record-shattering, $700 million contract with the Dodgers in the offseason, the largest known contract by total value in sports history. Ohtani is also by far the richest player in MLB when it comes to endorsements, as Sportico estimates that he makes $65 million per year. That figure is larger than that of the rest of the top 15 players combined, with Bryce Harper second at $7 million.

The past few months have been eventful for Ohtani outside of baseball as well. He announced a surprise marriage just last month, with his wife's identity revealed days ago to be retired Japanese basketball player Mamiko Tanaka. He also went viral with his adoption of a dog, named Dekopin.