MLB investigating Shohei Ohtani and his former interpreter amid gambling allegations

Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani speaks to reporters with his interpreter at his side
Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani speaks to reporters with his interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, left, at his side during DodgerFest at Dodger Stadium in February.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Major League Baseball announced Friday it has opened an investigation into the allegations surrounding Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani and his now ex-interpreter Ippei Mizuhara.

“Major League Baseball has been gathering information since we learned about the allegations involving Shohei Ohtani and Ippei Mizuhara from the news media. Earlier today, our Department of Investigations (DOI) began their formal process investigating the matter.”

The investigation comes two days after The Times first reported that representatives of Ohtani accused Mizuhara, his longtime interpreter and close friend, of engaging in a “massive theft” of the two-way star’s funds, with millions of dollars of Ohtani’s money allegedly used to pay off gambling debts Mizuhara owed to an illegal bookmaker.


The Dodgers fired Mizuhara once the news broke Wednesday.

The circumstances surrounding the situation have been the subject of intense speculation, both online and around the rest of the baseball industry.

Before The Times’ story, Mizuhara had conducted an on-the-record interview with ESPN on Tuesday in which he claimed Ohtani had paid off his gambling debts, which ESPN reported totaled at least $4.5 million.

Before that interview was published, however, ESPN said that Mizuhara — whose first interview with the outlet was arranged by a “spokesman for Ohtani” — recanted his story and said that Ohtani had no knowledge of his gambling debts, nor had the two-way star been the one to transfer the money from his accounts.

The Internal Revenue Service confirmed to the Associated Press on Thursday that Mizuhara and Mathew Bowyer, the alleged illegal bookmaker who is the subject of a federal investigation, are under investigation through the agency’s Los Angeles field office.

Ohtani has yet to address the situation. MLB did not respond to a detailed list of questions sent before its announcement Friday of an investigation.

At this stage, it’s unclear exactly what MLB’s investigation will entail.

Representatives of Dodgers superstar Shohei Ohtani accused his interpreter of engaging in a ‘massive theft’ of the ballplayer’s funds to place bets with an allegedly illegal bookmaker.

March 23, 2024

Although the league can request an interview with Ohtani, it’s doubtful that his lawyers would let him talk while there is still an open federal investigation .


The league can request an interview with Mizuhara but can’t compel him to talk since he is no longer employed by one of its teams.

There is also nothing that requires federal investigators to cooperate with MLB. They might not want to share sensitive information about their investigation with an outside party.

It appears unlikely MLB would put Ohtani on a paid administrative leave, as it does with other investigations, such as its probe into former Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer. Unlike Bauer, Ohtani is not facing any allegations (other than Mizuhara’s since-recanted claims that he sent money to the illegal bookie).

At this point, Ohtani is not known to have gambled at all, let alone on baseball. Under the league’s collective bargaining agreement, players who place illegal non-baseball wagers are subject to punishment that is up to the commissioner’s discretion. In 2015, Miami Marlins pitcher Jarred Cosart was fined by the league after it found he had gambled illegally on other sports, but not baseball.

The Dodgers returned to Los Angeles on Thursday from South Korea, where they opened their season with a two-game series against the San Diego Padres. The team next plays Sunday in an exhibition game against the Angels at Dodger Stadium.