Shohei Ohtani’s former interpreter pleads guilty to bank fraud

Ippei Mizuhara faces up to 33 years in prison after stealing $17m to pay off illegal gambling debt
The post Shohei Ohtani’s former interpreter pleads guilty to bank fraud first appeared on EGR Intel.  

Ippei Mizuhara has pleaded guilty to counts of bank fraud and subscribing to a false tax return following allegations he stole up to $17m (£13.6m) from Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani.

Mizuhara, Ohtani’s former interpreter, could face up to 30 years in prison for the bank fraud charge alone, while the other count comes with a potential punishment of three years behind bars.

He was charged in California last month after it was revealed in March that he had been accused of stealing $5.4m from his employer to pay off gambling debts.

The plea deal states that Mizuhara, around September 2021, began placing sports bets with an illegal bookmaker and when he fell into debt, “orchestrated a scheme” to deceive and cheat a bank in order to obtain money from Ohtani’s account.

It adds that Mizuhara impersonated Ohtani and used his personal identity information to “trick and deceive” bank employees into authorising bank transfers from the account.

US Attorney Martin Estrada said in a statement released on Wednesday: “The extent of this defendant’s deception and theft is massive.

“He took advantage of his position of trust to take advantage of Mr Ohtani and fuel a dangerous gambling habit. My office is committed to vindicating victims throughout our community and ensuring that wrongdoers face justice.”

Alongside the bank fraud, Mizuhara pleaded guilty to placing a false tax return after claiming $136,865 worth of income for the tax year of 2022.

However, Mizuhara “knew his total taxable income for the year 2022 was substantially higher than he reported”, according to the plea document.

Additionally, the translator claimed to be single on his tax return for a $10,000 reduction, when in fact he is married and therefore only entitled to a $5,000 deduction.

Mizuhara also failed to report additional income of $4.1m for 2022 alone.

According to the agreement, Mizuhara also used Ohtani’s bank account to pay a $60,000 dentist bill, which Ohtani agree to pay via a cheque.

However, without the baseball star’s permission, Mizuhara used Ohtani’s bank card to pay the bill and pocketed the $60,000 cheque into his personal checking account.

Special Agent in Charge Tyler Hatcher, IRS Criminal Investigation, said: “Our joint investigation with Homeland Security Investigations clearly showed Mr Mizuhara not only stole from Mr Ohtani but also that he lied to the IRS about his income.

“Mr Mizuhara exploited his relationship with Mr Ohtani to bankroll his own irresponsibility. In cases where we are able to identify them, we make every effort to make things right for victims, and this is one of those cases.”

Mizuhara’s arraignment is scheduled for 14 May, where he is expected to enter a plea of guilty.

The former translator spoke to ESPN on 19 March  to accept full accountability of betting on football, NBA, NFL and college football but never baseball.

Mizuhara admitted he placed bets with US operator DraftKings and that Ohtani, despite not being happy about it, had agreed to pay off the debts.

The following day, however, he changed his story and said Ohtani was unaware of his gambling debts and did not transfer any money.

Ohtani denied placing bets or asking anyone to do so on his behalf.

The post Shohei Ohtani’s former interpreter pleads guilty to bank fraud first appeared on EGR Intel.

 

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