Ippei Mizuhara, ex-interpreter of Shohei Ohtani, pleads not guilty as formality as part of negotiated deal with federal prosecutors

Ippei Mizuhara, the former interpreter of Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani, plead not guilty to bank and tax fraud on Tuesday.

The not guilty plea is a formality ahead of a deal he negotiated with federal prosecutors in the sports betting case that has him facing up to 30 years in prison. Mizuhara allegedly stole nearly $17 million from Ohtani to cover Mizuhara's illegal gambling losses, which totaled more than $40 million.

Last week, Mizuhara agreed to plead guilty to two charges — bank fraud and subscribing to a false tax return. The first charge carries a maximum sentence of up to 30 years in federal prison, and the second could add up to three years.

Mizuhara's plea Tuesday of not guilty is a procedural step with the case ongoing, according to the Associated Press. He is expected to plead guilty at a later date.

The plea agreement will require Mizuhara to pay Ohtani restitution that could total up to $17 million, plus another $1 million to the Internal Revenue Service.

Mizuhara has been free on an unsecured $25,000 bond.

Ohtani has denied knowing anything about the scandal and said he learned about it when everyone else did. Major League Baseball has released a statement recognizing that authorities view Ohtani as a victim in all of this. Ohtani, one of the best hitters in baseball so far this season, is continuing to play with the Dodgers in the wake of the scandal.

Mizuhara turned himself in to authorities officially in April after he was accused of stealing millions from Ohtani. He allegedly made 19,000 wagers with an alleged illegal bookie between December 2021 and January 2024, which averages out to about 25 bets per day. In total, Mizuhara lost more than $40.5 million.

Mizuhara was Ohtani’s financial point person beginning when the star moved to the United States in 2018. Mizuhara reportedly helped Ohtani set up a bank account, and he impersonated Ohtani and later changed information in order to start funneling money from the account. Ohtani’s agent reportedly talked to him exclusively through Mizuhara, too.

Mizuhara reportedly transferred weekly $500,000 payments into the account of an associate of Mathew Boyer, who is also under federal investigation. That associate then transferred the money into accounts with Resorts World, a Las Vegas casino, and Pechanga Resort Casino in Temecula, California. The scandal is reportedly part of a much larger operation in which 12 people have already been charged and convicted and multiple casinos have paid fines.

The associate in question, according to ESPN, was Ryan Boyajian, who is a cast member of "The Real Housewives of Orange County." Scott Sibella, the former president of Resorts World and MGM Grand, was sentenced to a year of probation, 200 hours of community service and was fined $9,5000 last week after he pleaded guilty in connection with another sports gambling charge.

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