MLB investigating allegations surrounding Shohei Ohtani and interpreter

Ippei Mizuhara was terminated by the Dodgers after the gambling allegations first surfaced. MLB has stepped up to the plate and has opened their own investigation as Mizuhara is thought to be at the center of a larger scandal involving sports gambling.

Shohei Ohtani at bat versus the San Diego Padres in the 2024 Seoul Series. Ohtani's former interpreter is involved in an investigation by MLB as part of a greater probe.
Shohei Ohtani at bat versus the San Diego Padres in the 2024 Seoul Series. Ohtani's former interpreter is involved in an investigation by MLB as part of a greater probe. / Gene Wang/GettyImages

NBC News is reporting Friday night that Major League Baseball has opened an investigation into an alleged theft and sports gambling scandal that surrounds Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani's close friend and former interpreter Ippei Mizuhara.

The MLB said in a statement that it has been "gathering information since [they] learned about the allegations involving Shohei Ohtani and Ippei Mizuhara from the news media." MLB announced in a statement that its Department of Investigations began a "formal process investigating the matter" this week, but did not state with any specificity as to what was actually being investigated or whether the athlete was part of the investigation. According to ESPN, Ohtani is not believed to be the target.

MLB launches investigation into situation that resulted in Dodgers terminating Ippei Mizuhara

Interestingly, MLB's investigation will request interviews with both Ohtani and Mizuhara, but the league has no way to compel Mizuhara to cooperate, as a now-former employee.

Mizuhara was terminated by the Dodgers on Wednesday after attorneys for Ohtani said that the player was the victim of a "massive theft," claiming said theft was allegedly tied to sports gambling by Mizuhara.

The matter was first reported by the Los Angeles Times after Ohtani's attorneys made a claim that Ohtani's name surfaced in the investigation of Matthew Bowyer, an Orange County resident. Bowyer has not been charged with a crime, according to his attorney Diane Bass of Irvine, California, but federal agents did raid his home in San Juan Capistrano last year as part of their investigation.

Bass told the Times investigative reporters that her client never had any contact with Ohtani.

"“Mathew Bowyer never met, spoke with, or texted, or had contact in any way with Shohei Ohtani.”"

Diane Bass, Irvine-based attorney

Ohtani's representatives then began to look into the alleged actions of Mizuhara, who has been a close friend of Ohtani's and has served as his interpreter since he came to the United States more than six years ago.

""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.""

Statement from Ohtani's attorneys

The Dodgers then released a statement confirming the media reports that Mizuhara was terminated. They stated that they were gathering information and would not comment further. MLB has taken no immediate action against Ohtani and he remains an active player on the Dodgers roster.

The scandal was brought to public light following the Dodgers' season opener in Seoul, South Korea, which celebrated Ohtani's arrival to the Dodgers.

"“Yesterday was supposed to be the coronation” of Ohtani, 29, as the sport’s new king, Adrian Burgos, a sports historian and professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, told NBC News.“The MLB, regardless of what truth ultimately comes out of this story, has this international global superstar associated with the worst sin of baseball.” "

Adrian Burgos, Sports Historian, to NBC

Ohtani is an alleged victim of the scandal, as he reportedly lost $4.5 million from his accounts, purportedly transferred to cover Mizuhara's losses. According to sources, a series of wire transfers were allegedly issued from Ohtani's account to a bookmaking operation in Southern California that is under federal investigation.

Ohtani signed a 10-year contract this winter worth $700 milllion. The contract is the largest contract ever signed in North American sports history.