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Ippei Mzuhara pleads guilty to illegal betting

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Ippei MIZUHARA, Shohei Ohtani’s former translator on Wednesday (8th May), pleaded guilty to US federal charges – one of bank fraud as well as filing false tax returns – in relation to his theft from Shohei of almost $17m.

A press release from the US Attorney’s Office states that Mizuhara is expected to plead guilty on both counts during an arraignment scheduled for 14 May. The US District Court of California’s arraignment was originally scheduled to take place on Thursday, 9 May. However, it was moved up Wednesday 8 May.

Scott Sibella was sentenced two hours before the announcement of the deal. Sibella, a former executive at Resorts World and MGM Grand who plead guilty to another aspect of the federal probe surrounding the Wayne Nix gambling ring, is a former Resorts World executive.

Mizuhara faces up to 33-years in prison, plus fines of up to $1.25 million for the two charges. In the plea agreement, prosecutors agreed to advocate for a lower sentence. Mizuhara forfeits his right to indictment by pleading guilty.

Mizuhara, regardless of the sentence, will have to pay Ohtani $16,975,010 as restitution. This is the amount Mizuhara stole from Ohtani’s account between September 2021 and March 2024 in order to pay gambling debts.

Mizuhara used Ohtani’s money in other ways. The Department of Justice released a press release stating that he bought cards for resale and paid for dental care.

US Attorney E. Martin Estrada described Mizuhara’s long-running fraud scheme as “massive”. He added that the interpreter had “taken advantage of his trust position to exploit Mr. Ohtani, and fuel a harmful gambling habit.”

In a press release, Special Agent Tyler Hatcher of IRS Criminal Investigation Los Angeles Field Office stated that “our joint investigation with Homeland Security Investigations showed clearly Mr. Mizuhara stole from Mr. Ohtani and also lied to IRS about his earnings.” “Mr. Mizuhara used his relationship with Ohtani as a way to fund his irresponsibility.

Mizuhara surrendered himself to the authorities on April 12 after first being reported about this illegal scheme.

Mizuhara’s illegal betting on sports has accelerated fast

Mizuhara has been Ohtani’s translator and de facto manager ever since he joined the Los Angeles Angels as a two-time MVP in 2018.

In March 2018, he began taking on more personal duties for Ohtani. He helped him to set up a banking account. Mizuhara reset his personal data to prevent scrutiny. According to an affidavit, he also incorrectly informed Ohtani’s manager and advisers that Ohtani denied them access.

Mizuhara met an illegal bookmaker, believed to be Mathew BOWYER in September 2021 at a San Diego poker game. In less than 30 months, he had placed over 19,000 bets. He won $142.3m in total and lost $182.9m. This means he was down $40.7m.

Mizuhara transferred money from Ohtani to an associate Bowyer as his debts grew. ESPN reported on Wednesday that “The Real Housewives of Orange County’s” Ryan Boyajian was the associate. Boyajian had money deposited in two marker accounts, one at Resorts World Las Vegas; the other was Pechanga Resort Casino in Temecula.

Federal authorities were investigating Bowyer when they discovered the transfers made from Ohtani’s account. Bowyer has ties to an illegal betting network led by Nix. So far, he hasn’t been mentioned in any public indictments.

Nix awaits sentencing scheduled for September 25.

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