Ohtani’s Former Interpreter Is Said to Be Negotiating a Guilty Plea

Ohtani’s Former Interpreter Is Said to Be Negotiating a Guilty Plea
Ohtani’s Former Interpreter Is Said to Be Negotiating a Guilty Plea
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A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment. Matthew Hiltzik, a spokesman for Ohtani, referred to the player’s detailed explanation he gave to the media two weeks ago, when Ohtani said Mizuhara had stolen from him and he promised to cooperate fully with the federal and Major League Baseball investigations.

“I never bet on baseball or any other sports or never have asked somebody to do that on my behalf,” Ohtani said. “And I have never went through a bookmaker to bet on sports. Up until a couple days ago, I didn’t know this was happening.”

The allegations about the theft surfaced when the Dodgers were in Seoul to open the season with games against the San Diego Padres. Interest in the team has been intense since it signed Ohtani to a 10-year, $700 million contract in December. But as he and his new teammates were preparing for their opening games, reporters began asking about suspicious wire transfers from Ohtani’s account that had surfaced in a federal investigation of an alleged bookmaker. Rather than inform Ohtani personally, the superstar’s agent and Mizuhara tried to manage the crisis themselves.

Mizuhara, communicating with the agent, Nez Balelo, offered different versions of what had happened. First, Mizuhara said Ohtani had paid the debts of an unnamed teammate; then he said that he himself had racked up debts with the bookie and that Ohtani had bailed him out. The shifting stories alarmed executives in Major League Baseball, who worried that Ohtani might be tarnished by a connection to gambling.

Once executives with the Dodgers and Major League Baseball learned of the wire transfers — but with Ohtani still in the dark — the Dodgers asked Mizuhara to address the team in the clubhouse after the first game in Seoul. He told the team that he had a gambling addiction and was deep in debt, and that Ohtani, his close friend for years, had paid the debts.

At that point, Ohtani, who is not fluent in English but can understand the gist of some conversations, became suspicious. After Mizuhara’s clubhouse address, Ohtani told reporters, he confronted Mizuhara back at the team hotel. It was then, Ohtani said, that Mizuhara told him that he had stolen the money from his account. The Dodgers promptly fired him.

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