Shohei Ohtani gambling scandal timeline: History with Ippei Mizuhara and events that led to MLB investigation

A gambling scandal involving an interpreter is threatening to ensnare Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball’s biggest star. The complicated situation, which involves allegations of theft and fraud and entails revised statements and mixed motives underpinning them, is still fluid and developing. As such, the current juncture provides no certainty when it comes to the truth of the matter and what it means for the best and most visible baseball player in the world. 

As the story continues, the journey toward some kind of closure at some point in the indeterminate future, the following timeline will provide a running summary of the story and the events to constitute that story. It’s part chronicle, part primer and on both counts something that will be updated as events merit. 

Here are the events of the Ohtani interpreter gambling scandal thus far. 

Early 1990s
Japan-born Ippei Mizuhara relocates to the United States with his family

Mizuhara graduates from Diamond Bar High School in Southern California.

Ohtani and Mizuhara, now back in Japan, first meet while Ohtani is an 18-year-old rookie for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. 

Ohtani makes the leap to Major League Baseball when he signs with the Los Angeles Angels. He brings Mizuhara with him to the States to serve as his interpreter. Mizuhara evolves into more than just an interpreter for Ohtani. He also catches some of his bullpen sessions and even catches for Ohtani during the 2021 Home Run Derby. Mizuhara runs errands for Ohtani and serves as his personal driver until Ohtani obtains his license. Joe Maddon, Ohtani’s manager for two-plus seasons, will liken the pair’s close relationship to “peanut butter and jelly.”

Mizuhara reportedly meets Southern California bookmaker Mathew Bowyer at a poker game in San Diego. Soon after, Mizuhara allegedly began placing bets with Bowyer on credit. Mizuhara has claimed he did not place any bets on baseball. 

Late 2022
Mizuhara’s tab with Bowyer reportedly exceeds $1 million, and he begins borrowing money from family members and close friends. 

Early 2023
Mizuhara’s gambling debts reportedly reach $4 million. Around this time, he asks Ohtani for help.

September-October 2023 
Ohtani’s name allegedly appears on two wire transfers totaling $1 million with the classification of “loan” attached to the transactions. The recipient of both transfers is Bowyer. Mizuhara will later say that he and Ohtani paid off the debts through Ohtani’s account with as many as nine transactions, each worth $500,000, over the course of several months. According to Mizuhara, Ohtani “didn’t have any clue” that the money was going to a bookmaker. 

MLB rules prohibit players and team employees from wagering on baseball, even via legal and sanctioned means. Those rules also forbid betting on any sport through illegal or offshore bookmakers.

October 2023
Federal agents execute a search warrant and raid Bowyer’s home.

December 2023
Ohtani signs a $700 million free-agent contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. It is the largest contract in MLB history. A staggering $680 million of the total payout is deferred. Mizuhara joins Ohtani with the Dodgers.  

January 2024
The federal agents who raided Bowyer’s home discover Ohtani’s name on wire transfers. ESPN and the Los Angeles Times will learn of this in the weeks to come. 

March 18, 2024
One or more reporters reach out to Nez Balelo, the agent for Ohtani, and ask about his client’s name appearing on wire transfers to Bowyer. Balelo does not respond to inquiries, and soon after the Ohtani team hires a crisis-communications expert.

That crisis spokesperson for Ohtani speaks to ESPN about the unfolding story and claims Ohtani made the payments to cover Mizuhara’s debts to Bowyer. “Yeah, I sent several large payments,” the spokesperson quotes Ohtani as saying. “That’s the maximum amount I could send.”

Ohtani’s spokesperson confirms to ESPN that Mizuhara’s gambling debts total at least $4.5 million. The spokesperson makes Mizuhara available to ESPN for what will turn out to be a 90-minute interview. During that interview, Mizuhara claims he had been placing bets through the DraftKings Sportsbook and assumed that he could also legally make bets through Bowyer’s outfit, which, unlike sanctioned sportsbooks, was willing to allow him to bet on credit. “I want everyone to know Shohei had zero involvement in betting,” Mizuhara says during the interview, according to ESPN. “I want people to know I did not know this was illegal. I learned my lesson the hard way. I will never do sports betting ever again.

Ohtani’s circle eventually retains the services of West Hollywood attorney Andrew Brettler. 

March 20, 2024
After an emailed bomb threat targeting Ohtani is deemed non-credible, the Dodgers open their 2024 regular season with a 5-2 win over the Padres in Seoul, South Korea. Ohtani has two hits. Mizuhara is in the Dodgers’ dugout, at times seen talking with Ohtani. 

After the game, Dodgers owner Mark Walter meets with the players in the clubhouse and tells them a damaging story is coming out soon. Mizuhara tells the team he has a gambling addiction, and club president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman tells players that Ohtani has helped to cover Mizuhara’s debts. 

As the ESPN and Los Angeles Times stories are set to be published, Ohtani’s spokesperson – the same spokesperson who made Mizuhara available to ESPN the day before – denies Mizuhara’s version of events to ESPN and says Ohtani’s lawyers will soon be making a public statement. That statement, issued by Berk Brettler LLP and provided to CBS Sports, reads: 

“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.”

The Department of Justice declines to comment when reached by CBS Sports.

When asked by ESPN reporters via telephone whether he has been accused of theft, Mizuhara says he was ordered not to comment upon those developments. He also recants his initial statements and instead now says Ohtani never had any knowledge of his gambling debts. “Obviously, this is all my fault, everything I’ve done,” Mizuhara says. “I’m ready to face all the consequences.”

According to what the unnamed spokesperson tells ESPN, the following explains why the story coming from the Ohtani camp changed so drastically: 

“On the way back to the hotel, Ohtani starts asking questions about what had been said in the clubhouse, the Ohtani spokesman told ESPN, and his representatives say that’s when Ohtani told them he didn’t recognize Mizuhara’s version of the events. According to the Dodgers official and Ohtani’s spokesman, Ohtani’s representatives had continued to rely on Mizuhara to communicate with Ohtani while they were dealing with the situation, and Mizuhara did not tell Ohtani what was happening.

“According to the Ohtani spokesman, Ohtani discovers for the first time Wednesday that money is missing from his account.”

Soon after, the Dodgers fire Mizuhara. Mizuhara appears not to travel with the team back to the U.S., and attempts by Japanese media to locate him at his Southern California home are unsuccessful. 

The Dodgers replace Mizuhara with a new interpreter for Ohtani, long-time club employee Will Ireton, a fluent Japanese speaker. 

March 21, 2024
Ohtani declines to answer questions following the Dodgers’ 15-11 loss to the Padres in the second and final game of the Korea Series. 

On this same day, the Associated Press reports that the Internal Revenue Service has launched a criminal investigation of both Mizuhara and Bowyer through the agency’s Los Angeles field office. 

An attorney for Bowyer, the alleged bookie, tells CBS Sports that her client “had no contact with Mr. Ohtani.”

Contrary to some reports that state Mizuhara was graduated from the University of California-Riverside, a school official tells NBC Los Angeles there are no records of his ever attending the school.

March 22, 2024
MLB releases the following statement: 

“Major League Baseball has been gathering information since we learned about the allegations involving Shohei Ohtani and Ippei Mizuhara from the news media. Earlier today, our Department of Investigations (DOI) began their formal process investigating the matter.”

As well, the Boston Red Sox release a statement denying that, as had long been reported, Mizuhara ever worked for the club as a translator for pitcher Hideki Okajima. The club’s statement reads: 

“We are reaching out to all of you because of reports in various outlets stating that Ippei Mizuhara worked for the Red Sox as an interpreter, which is incorrect. Mizuhara was never employed by the Boston Red Sox in any capacity and was not an interpreter for Hideki Okajima during the pitcher’s time with the team. Please know that we have thoroughly checked our files to ensure we are providing accurate information.”

March 25, 2024
Ohtani breaks his silence and delivers a prepared statement to the media at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Ohtani’s statement, which he recites in Japanese and is translated by Ireton, reads in part: 

“I wanted to be here to be able to talk. I’m sure it was a tough week for fans and the organization. On a personal note, I’m very saddened and shocked that someone I trusted has done this. Obviously today there are things that I am limited to talk about. I do have a document in front of me that will detail what has happened.

“I never bet on baseball or any other sports. I have never asked anybody to do that on my behalf. I have never gone through a bookmaker to bet on sports. Up until a couple of days ago, I didn’t know this was happening.

“Just to go over the result, Ippei has been stealing money from my account, and has told lies. 

“… The first time I knew about this gambling — Ippei’s gambling — was after the first game (in Korea) when we had the team meeting in the clubhouse. During the team meeting Ippei was speaking English and I didn’t have a translator at my side. But even with that, I started to feel that there was something amiss.

“…Obviously I never agreed to pay off the debt or make payments to the bookmaker. And finally, when we went to the hotel and talked one to one, that was when I found out he has massive debt, and it was revealed during the meeting that Ippei admitted that he was sending money using my account to the bookmaker.

“And at that moment — obviously it was an absurd thing that was happening — I contacted my representatives at that point. When I was finally able to talk to my representatives, that’s when my representatives found out Ippei has been lying the whole time. And that’s when I contacted the Dodgers and my lawyers.

“In conclusion, I do want to make it clear I never bet on sports or have willfully sent money to the bookmaker. To summarize how I’m feeling right now, I’m beyond shocked. It’s hard to verbalize how I’m feeling at this point.”

After reading his statement, Ohtani declines to take any questions. 

March 26, 2024
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts suggests that the team’s communication with Ohtani will improve with Mizuhara no longer functioning as a gatekeeper of sorts. “I would argue that it’s gonna help relations internally,” Roberts tells reporters, including the Los Angeles Times. “I’ve already seen it. You know, the last couple of days, I think Shohei has been even more engaging with his teammates. And I think there’s only upside with that.”

March 28, 2024
Commissioner Rob Manfred addresses the Ohtani investigation during an appearance on Chris Russo’s show on MLB Network. Manfred says: 

“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.”

April 11, 2024
Mizuhara is charged with bank fraud for allegedly stealing more than $16 million from Ohtani, according to a criminal complaint from a joint investigation by the Internal Revenue Service’s criminal division, the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. “Mr. Mizuhara stole this money largely to finance his voracious appetite for illegal sports betting,” U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada said. Prosecutors say Ohtani is a victim and had no prior knowledge of the gambling or the theft.

April 12, 2024
Mizuhara voluntarily surrenders to authorities and, following a hearing, is released on $25,000 bond. He is to have no contact with Ohtani and may not leave the central district of California. Additionally, Mizuhara must complete a program for gambling addicts, according to Sam Blum of The Athletic.

May 8, 2024
Mizuhara has agreed to plead guilty to bank fraud and tax fraud, the U.S Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California announced. He faces a maximum sentence of 33 years in prison, five years of supervised release and a fine of $1,250,000.

June 4, 2024
Mizuhara formally pleads guilty. MLB clears Ohtani in its investigation into the gambling.

CBS Sports will continue to update this story as events unfold. 

Sources: Associated Press; The Athletic; Boston Herald;; “Cup of Coffee” newsletter by Craig Calcaterra; Diamond Bar High School;; Los Angeles Times;; MLB Network; NBC Los Angeles, New York Times

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