CNN

Major League Baseball and the Internal Revenue Service are investigating allegations surrounding two-time Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani and his longtime interpreter Ippei Mizuhara.

The investigation began just two days after Mizuhara, a longtime interpreter for the Japanese baseball superstar, was fired after the player’s lawyers accused him of “massive theft” of millions of dollars and placing bets with a bookmaker under federal investigation, according to ESPN and the Los Angeles Times, which first reported the story.

“Major League Baseball has been gathering information since we learned about the allegations against Shohei Ohtani and Ippei Mizuhari through the news media,” the league said in a news release. “Earlier today, our Department of Investigations (DOI) began their formal process to investigate the matter.”

The IRS Criminal Investigation Los Angeles Field Office is investigating both Mizuhara and Mathew Bowyer, IRS spokesman Scott Villiard told CNN on Friday. Bowyer is a California resident whose bankruptcy court documents show he had gambling debts of $425,000 more than a decade ago. Diane Bass, an attorney for Bowyer, told CNN that her client “has never had any contact with Mr. Ohtani.”

Ohtani’s attorneys have not detailed how they believe the money was stolen, raising questions about the scandal that emerged as Ohtani made his long-awaited debut with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The saga began with reporters asking questions about alleged transfers from Ohtani’s bank account and culminated in Mizuhara’s dismissal. Here’s how the scandal unfolded:

Mizuhara told ESPN in a Tuesday interview arranged by Ohtani’s representative that Ohtani was not involved in his betting and that Mizuhara had asked the player to pay off his gambling debt last year, ESPN reported.

But after the interview, Ohtani’s spokesperson “denied” Mizuhara’s story and subsequently released a statement saying Ohtani had been the victim of theft.

On the same day, Mizuhara was seen smiling in the LA dugout and chatting with Ohtani before translating for the star in the team’s 5-2 victory over the San Diego Padres in the opening game of the MLB season in Seoul, South Korea, on Wednesday.

Later on Wednesday, Mizuhara was fired as Ohtani’s interpreter. The pair have worked together since 2013.

After learning of the allegations against Ohtani and Mizuhara, MLB announced it would launch an investigation on Friday. The IRS also confirmed it was investigating the translator.

ESPN’s Tisha Thompson said on CNN’s “The Lead” Wednesday that at least $4.5 million was withdrawn via wire transfer from Ohtani’s bank accounts, although it is unclear who initiated the transfers.

Thompson also reports that sources told her that Mizuhara’s sports betting dates back to 2021, when Ohtani played for the Los Angeles Angels.

When reached for comment, the Angels referred all questions to representatives for the Dodgers and Shohei.

Ohtani played his last game with the Angels last year before signing a record-breaking 10-year, $700 million contract with the Dodgers.

The Dodgers confirmed Mizuhara’s dismissal and said they are “aware of media reports and gathering information.” The team added that it had no further comment.

As news of Mizuhara’s firing and alleged actions emerged, both the interpreter and Ohtani’s representatives shifted their statements to ESPN reporters. First they said the star player was aware of his translator’s gambling debts and later that he had no knowledge or involvement in them.

ESPN’s Thompson said the interpreter and Ohtani’s representatives did “a major 180” in what they told her.

Initially, Ohtani’s spokesperson told ESPN that the player had transferred money to pay off Mizuhara’s gambling debts, the outlet reported. In a Tuesday interview with ESPN, the translator said Ohtani was unhappy with the situation but agreed to pay the debt.

Mizuhara also said he had never bet on MLB games and denied Ohtani had any involvement.

Subsequently, Ohtani’s law firm, Berk Brettler LLP, released a statement on Wednesday saying: “During our response to recent media inquiries, we learned that Shohei has been the victim of a grand theft and we are turning the case over to authorities . .”

That same day, Mizuhara admitted he lied about Ohtani knowing about his debts, Thompson said. He backtracked much of his original story, saying instead that Ohtani had no knowledge of the interpreter’s debts and had not made any payments, ESPN reported.

CNN has requested comment from Ohtani’s agent and further comment from the Dodgers. CNN has also sought comment from Mizuhara.

Mizuhara apologized to the team on Wednesday after the Dodgers’ game in Seoul, according to ESPN, citing an unnamed Dodgers official.

“I’m told (Mizuhara) says something along the lines of, ‘I’m sorry.’ I apologize. I have a gambling problem Thompson said on ESPN.

Ohtani and Mizuhara first worked together from 2013 to 2017 when Mizuhara served as a translator for the Nippon-Ham Fighters, Ohtani’s team with Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball League, according to MLB.com. When Ohtani joined the Los Angeles Angels in 2018, he asked Mizuhara to join him as his translator in the rookie season, and Mizuhara eventually followed the star to the Dodgers.

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