Baseball-Ohtani's interpreter fired amid allegations of 'massive theft'

Credit: REUTERS/Mike Blake

Updates with Dodgers manager in 12-13, adds SEOUL to dateline

LOS ANGELES/SEOUL, March 21 (Reuters) - Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani's interpreter Ippei Mizuhara has been fired by the team amid allegations he had engaged in "massive theft" from the player to pay off gambling debts, multiple news outlets reported.

Ohtani's attorneys told the LA Times that Mizuhara had used the ballplayer's funds to pay off an alleged illegal bookmaker, who is reportedly under federal investigation.

ESPN reported that at least $4.5 million had been transferred from Ohtani's account to a Southern California gambling operation.

"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," law firm Berk Brettler LLP said in a statement.

Mizuhara, who is a longtime friend of Ohtani and had traveled to Seoul with the Dodgers for their MLB season opening series, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In an interview with ESPN on Tuesday, he initially said that Ohtani had agreed to cover his gambling debts.

A day later, however, he told the sports broadcast network Ohtani did not know about the gambling debts and had not transferred money to the bookmaker's associate.

"Obviously, this is all my fault, everything I've done," Mizuhara told ESPN on Wednesday. "I'm ready to face all the consequences."

Mizuhara told ESPN his bets were on international soccer, the NBA, the NFL and college football but never baseball.

The Dodgers on Wednesday confirmed to Reuters that Mizuhara had been fired.

"The Dodgers are aware of media reports and are gathering information," a spokesperson for the team said.

At a news conference in Seoul on Thursday, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts declined to comment on the case but said Ohtani woiuld play in the second game against the San Diego Padres as planned.

"Shohei's ready," he said. "Ready to go for tonight's game."

Mizuhara came to California with Ohtani when he joined the Los Angeles Angels in 2018. Mizuhara was hired by the Dodgers when two-time AL MVP Ohtani inked a record 10-year, $700 million contract with the team in the offseason.

Ohtani had two hits and an RBI in the Dodgers season opening 5-2 win over the Padres in Seoul on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Hyonhee Shin in Seoul; Editing by Peter Rutherford )

((Rory.Carroll@thomsonreuters.com Follow me on Twitter @rorydcarroll; 503-830-8017;))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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