Shohei Ohtani’s ex-interpreter goes to court ahead of plea deal

Ippei Mizuhara, who previously served as Los Angeles Dodgers superstar Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter, pleaded not guilty to bank and tax fraud on Tuesday, doing so as a formality with negotiations with federal prosecutors looming as both sides attempt to reach a plea deal.

According to authorities, Mizuhara stole almost $17 million from Ohtani to pay off sports gambling debts, and the ex-interpreter is expected to eventually plead guilty.

It is unlikely that an actual trial will be held, but a pre-trial hearing was scheduled for June 14 with a trial date of July 3 set.

On Tuesday, Mizuhara appeared in federal court, where he waived the right to a grand jury indictment. His hearing didn’t last five minutes.

Mizuhara and his attorney, Michael Freedman, did not make any comments to the media upon exiting the court room.

Mizuhara was charged with one count of bank fraud and one count of submitting a false tax return. He could face a prison sentence of up to 30 years for the first charge, with the second charge carrying a sentence of up to three years.

The Department of Justice stated last week regarding a plea agreement that it would recommend a shorter sentence if Mizuhara “demonstrates an acceptance of responsibility.” However, a judge will be the one who determines how long Mizuhara’s sentence will be.

As part of the plea agreement, it is highly likely that Mizuhara will be deported to his home country of Japan.

The Dodgers fired the Mizuhara, 39, on March 21 after news broke that Ohtani accused him of “massive theft.” The money reportedly was wired from the Ohtani’s bank accounts to Mathew Bowyer, whom authorities allege was running an illegal sportsbook.

Mizuhara had been working with Ohtani in the United States since 2018, but Mizuhara was also by Ohtani’s side when the two-way star played professionally in Japan.

A federal investigation did not discover any evidence that made prosecutors believe that Ohtani was involved in sports betting nor that Mizuhara was placing wagers on baseball.

Media members were not allowed in the court room on Tuesday, according to The Athletic.