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Shohei Ohtani's reps request law enforcement investigation of alleged theft by fired interpreter, per report

Shohei Ohtani's representatives have contacted law enforcement and requested they investigate a "massive theft" by fired interpreter Ippei Mizuhara, according to ESPN's Tisha Thompson.

Attorneys for the Los Angeles Dodgers star accused Mizuhara of stealing money to pay off his gambling debts with an allegedly illegal bookmaker on Wednesday. Mizuhara's firing was announced immediately after the news broke between the Dodgers' season-opening games in South Korea.

Additionally, the IRS confirmed to the Associated Press that Mizuhara and the bookmaker are under criminal investigation by the agency’s Los Angeles Field Office.

An MLB source reportedly told ESPN that the league has not been contacted by federal authorities over the matter and that its next step is to gather facts about a situation that has only become more confusing as details are revealed.

The Ohtani camp has presented two stories to explain why Ohtani's name was found on a wire transfer to an associate of the bookmaker. The first was given Tuesday, when both an Ohtani spokesperson and Mizuhara said Ohtani had agreed to pay off $4.5 million in gambling debts for Mizuhara, who is a close friend and has worked with him his entire MLB career. Using a wire to pay illegal gambling debts is a federal crime.

When an ESPN reporter asked Ohtani's people about Mizuhara's claim that Ohtani himself sent the wire on Wednesday, the camp proceeded to disavow Mizuhara and had their attorneys release the following 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.”

Mizuhara then gave another interview, saying that he had not been truthful and that Ohtani had no knowledge about the gambling debt. He declined to comment on the theft accusations. The alleged bookmaker involved has also stated that he has never met or spoken with Ohtani.

Ohtani's handlers reportedly didn't talk to Ohtani before commenting on interpreter

The shifting stories effectively poured gasoline on a situation that was already going to feature rampant speculation about what happened behind the scenes.

One day after the story broke, the Ohtani camp attempted to explain the change to ESPN, claiming that Ohtani's handlers in South Korea relied solely on Mizuhara to translate for Ohtani while trying to determine what had happened.

After the Dodgers' season-opening win Wednesday — in which Mizuhara continued working as interpreter — Dodger officials reportedly called a clubhouse meeting to inform the players that a negative story was coming later in the day.

Mizuhara reportedly proceeded to apologize and admit that he has a gambling addiction. It was only then that Ohtani allegedly understood what was happening and began to ask questions. His camp proceeded to disavow Mizuhara and accuse him of theft.

This picture taken on March 16, 2024 shows Los Angeles Dodgers' Shohei Ohtani (R) and his interpreter Ippei Mizuhara (L) attending a press conference at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul ahead of the 2024 MLB Seoul Series baseball game between Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres. The Los Angeles Dodgers said on March 21 they had fired Shohei Ohtani's interpreter after the Japanese baseball star's representatives claimed he had been the victim of
Shohei Ohtani has been playing in South Korea while his camp deals with a potentially massive scandal. (Photo by JUNG YEON-JE/AFP via Getty Images) (JUNG YEON-JE via Getty Images)

Ohtani declined comment to reporters after the Dodgers' second game Thursday. The Dodgers do not play again until their home opener against the St. Louis Cardinals on March 28.

Even without the confusion, this would be a stunning story for anyone who has followed Ohtani over the past few years. Mizuhara has been by his side for nearly every public appearance in the United States, acting as a personal assistant as much as an interpreter. He even caught for Ohtani during the 2021 Home Run Derby.

Mizuhara was well-compensated for that role, telling ESPN that he received between $300,000 and $500,000 annually from the Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels.

The stakes for this scandal are high. Betting on non-baseball sports is allowed by MLB — but not with illegal sportsbooks. Even the story in which Ohtani only paid off Mizuhara's debts would be immensely damaging for him in the eyes of both the league and law enforcement, as former attorney Craig Calcaterra laid out:

"No matter how well intentioned his paying of Mizuhara’s debts may have been ... doing so would violate multiple federal criminal statutes and would almost certainly violate MLB Rule 21(f). It would be an association with illegal gamblers that would require Rob Manfred to consider penalties, including permanent ineligibility, as the facts in the particular case may warrant.”

Ohtani's camp is now moving forward with the claims that would be least damaging to Ohtani of any possibilities, and we are only getting started with a story that could hang over the 2024 MLB season.