Shohei Ohtani gambling scandal: Rob Manfred hopes for ‘short’ MLB investigation into alleged interpreter theft

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On Thursday, Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said he hopes the league’s investigation into the theft and gambling scandal involving Los Angeles Dodgers superstar Shohei Ohtani will be “short.” Ohtani alleges that his longtime friend and interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, stole millions of dollars from him, and then used the money to pay gambling debts.
Here’s what Manfred said about the investigation on MLB Network’s “High Heat with Chris Russo” show Thursday (via ESPN):
“Given the way the story unfolded it’s important in assuring our fans about the integrity of the game that we verify the things that Mr. Ohtani said, it’s really that simple … It’s really difficult for the federal authorities to cooperate with us fully when they have their own ongoing investigation, so I think this is one where we’ll have to proceed on our own. We never have the kind of authority that law enforcement people have but we manage to get these investigations done and find the facts and I’m sure we will on this one. I hope (it’s) short, but I just don’t know.”
Sports betting is not legal in California and there is a federal investigation into illegal bookmaker Mathew Bowyer, with whom Mizuhara allegedly gambled. Mizuhara initially claimed he went to Ohtani for help and Ohtani paid his debt to Bowyer, but the interpreter later backtracked and said Ohtani was not aware of the payments.
Mizuhara is alleged to have stolen $4.5 million through a series of wire transfers. He was fired after addressing the Dodgers last Wednesday, when the team was in South Korea for the two-game Seoul Series with the San Diego Padres. MLB began a formal investigation Friday and Ohtani remains an active player. He has not been placed on administrative leave or the restricted list.
“Ippei has been stealing money from my account and has been telling lies,” Ohtani said Monday through an interpreter, Will Ireton. “The first time I knew about Ippei’s gambling was after the first game (in Seoul) when we had the team meeting in the clubhouse.”
MLB Rule 21 expressly forbids players and team personnel from being associated with illegal bookmakers, and payments made to an illegal bookmaker in California could put Ohtani in legal jeopardy. Betting on baseball, even legally, is strictly prohibited by the league. Mizuhara claims he never bet on baseball, only the NBA, NFL, NCAA basketball, and international soccer.
Ohtani, 29, joined the Dodgers on a record 10-year, $700 million contract this past offseason. The contract includes significant deferrals — Ohtani will be paid only $2 million per year from 2024-33 — which is made possible in part by Ohtani’s off-the field earnings. He reportedly makes north of $50 million per year in endorsements.
The Dodgers split the two-game Seoul Series with the Padres last week. They resume the regular season Thursday afternoon, during traditional Opening Day, at home against the St. Louis Cardinals.

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