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Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani says he never bet on sports, interpreter Ippei Mizuhara stole money, told lies

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LOS ANGELES — Speaking for the first time since he has been embroiled in an alleged $4.5 million fraud potentially tied to gambling, Dodgers superstar Shohei Ohtani said on Monday that he has never participated in sports betting or knowingly paid any gambling debts accumulated by his longtime interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara.

Instead, Ohtani says his close friend engaged in a scheme of lies that went on for years, with the two-time American League MVP unaware funds from his account were being drained to satisfy a massive gambling debt until after Mizuhara told members of the team he had a gambling problem.

Ohtani took a seat in front of the assembled media with Will Ireton, who is serving as his new interpreter. Ireton has been a Dodgers employee since 2016 after first serving as an interpreter for former Dodgers pitcher Kenta Maeda.

“I have not bet on (anything), or never have asked somebody to (bet on sports events) on my behalf,” Ohtani said. “And I have never gone through a bookmaker to bet on sports.”

The gambling controversy surfaced last week when the Dodgers were in South Korea and about to face the San Diego Padres in the second game of the regular season. The Los Angeles Times and ESPN reported that Ohtani’s representatives accused Mizuhara of draining funds from Ohtani’s personal bank account in a scheme tied to a Southern California bookmaker.

Ohtani, who spent the first six seasons of his MLB career with the Angels, signed a record-setting 10-year, $700-million contract with the Dodgers in the offseason. He had not spoken publicly on the issue until Monday, saying that he asked authorities to look into the matter and is participating fully with the investigation. MLB announced Friday that it had launched its own investigation.

Wearing a Dodgers cap and sweatshirt while sitting in front of approximately 100 media members in a cramped interview room beneath the third base stands that is normally reserved for postgame press conferences, Ohtani read quickly in Japanese from a prepared document, while speaking in an assured manner and keeping his face to the assembled mass for much of the session. He did not take questions.

“First of all, thank you very much for coming; I wanted to be here today to be able to talk,” Ohtani said at the outset. “I’m sure it was very tough, it’s been a tough week for fans, and team officials, and I’m very grateful that the media has been patient in this process. Just on a personal note, I’m very saddened and shocked that someone who I entrusted has done this.”

While not addressing how such a massive amount of money was drained from his account without being noticed, Ohtani admitted that there are some details, “that I am limited in being able to talk about.”

The IRS has confirmed that Mizuhara and Mathew Bowyer, the alleged illegal bookmaker, are under criminal investigation through the agency’s Los Angeles Field Office.

In direct fashion, Ohtani said he has been betrayed by his friend and former confidant.

“Ippei has been stealing money from my account and has told lies,” Ohtani said.

Ohtani said he was made aware of a connection to sports betting when media members began asking him about it while the team was in South Korea.

“Ippei never revealed to me that there was this media inquiry and to the representatives of my camp. … Ippei told to the media and to my representatives that I, on behalf of a friend, paid off debt,” Ohtani said. “Upon further questioning it was revealed that it was actually in fact, Ippei who was in debt.

“This – all of this – has been a complete lie.”

After the Dodgers’ victory over the Padres at South Korea on Wednesday, Mizuhara reportedly addressed the team as details about his debt began to emerge. Ohtani said he was present at the time but was without an interpreter as Mizuhara spoke in English.

“… But even with that, I kind of understood what was going on and started to feel that there was something amiss,” Ohtani said.

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Ohtani and Mizuhara met together at the team hotel later that evening.

“So up until that team meeting, I didn’t know that Ippei had a gambling addiction and was in debt,” Ohtani said. “And that obviously at that point, obviously, I did not never agree to pay off the debt or make payments to the book maker.

“And finally, when we went back to the hotel and talked one-to-one, that’s when I found out he had a massive debt. And it was revealed to me during that meeting that Ippei was sending money, using my account, to the bookmaker.”

“To summarize how I am feeling right now, I am just beyond shocked. It is really hard to verbalize how I am feeling at this point. The season is going to start, so I am going to let my lawyers handle matters from here on out. I am completely assisting in all investigations the tare taking place right now.”

Ohtani drove in a run in each of the first two games of the season and had three hits in 10 at-bats during the series against the Padres. He was in the Dodgers’ lineup for Monday’s Freeway Series game against the Angels and batting second as the designated hitter.

“I do want to make it clear that I never bet on sports or have willfully sent money to the bookmaker… I’m just beyond shocked. It’s hard to verbalize how I’m feeling at this point.” – Shohei Ohtani pic.twitter.com/itf1BuAkbv

— SportsNet LA (@SportsNetLA) March 25, 2024

Shohei Ohtani addresses the media regarding Ippei Mizuhara and the recent gambling allegations. pic.twitter.com/tioSqvkPvn

— SportsNet LA (@SportsNetLA) March 25, 2024

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