MLB star Shohei Ohtani’s translator fired after allegations of ‘massive theft’

The interpreter for Shohei Ohtani, baseball’s biggest star and one of the most famous people in Japan, has been fired after lawyers for the player said there was a “massive theft” from the slugger’s account.

ESPN reported this that several sources said that Ippei Mizuhara had incurred large debts with a California bookmaker. Initially, a player spokesperson said Ohtani had transferred $4.5 million to cover Mizuhara’s debts. But when ESPN asked further questions, the spokesperson backed away from their claim and said Ohtani’s lawyers would issue a statement soon.

“While responding to recent media inquiries, we learned that Shohei has been the victim of a grand larceny, and we are turning the matter over to authorities,” Berk Brettler LLP said in a statement Wednesday.

Mizuhara told ESPN that he was instructed not to comment on the matter, but did not say where those instructions came from.

Sports betting is legal in 40 US states but is still banned in California, where Ohtani plays for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Mizuhara had initially said Tuesday that Ohtani had helped him pay gambling debts, and ESPN saw two documents showing $500,000 payments in Ohtani’s name in September and October.

“Obviously he (Ohtani) was not happy with (the debt) and said he would help me make sure I never do this again,” Mizuhara said on Tuesday, before Wednesday’s developments. “He decided to pay it off for me. I want everyone to know that Shohei was not involved in betting in any way. I want people to know that I didn’t know this was illegal. I learned my lesson the hard way. I will never do sports betting again.”

Mizuhara added that he had never bet on baseball.

“I never bet on baseball,” Mizuhara said. “That’s 100%. I knew that rule… We have a meeting about that during spring training.”

Ohtani and Mizuhara are good friends outside of their working relationship. Mizuhara has been Ohtani’s translator since the star moved from Japan to play for the Los Angeles Angels in 2018. Ohtani joined the Dodgers in December on a 10-year, $700 million contract. He made his Dodgers debut on Wednesday in a win over the San Diego Padres in South Korea and is extremely popular in Japan.

ESPN said MLB was investigating the matter.