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#pounditTuesday, July 16, 2024

Detail reveals how Ippei Mizuhara stole from Shohei Ohtani

Ippei Mizuhara at a press conference

Dec 14, 2023; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Ippei Mizuhara, the translator for Los Angeles Dodgers designated hitter Shohei Ohtani, during an introductory press conference at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The federal criminal complaint filed Thursday offers some indication of how Shohei Ohtani managed to remain unaware that translator Ippei Mizuhara stole over $16 million from his bank account in order to pay off gambling debts.

According to the complaint, Mizuhara effectively had full control of Ohtani’s bank account and used it to pay off his enormous gambling debts. Notably, bank records showed that Ohtani’s bank account, which was funded primarily by his MLB salary, was not accessed online for three years until Mizuhara began gambling illegally, at which point devices linked to Mizuhara began to access it repeatedly.

Most notable, however, are the steps Mizuhara allegedly took to prevent Ohtani from finding out about the activity. In February 2022, Mizhuara is alleged to have called Ohtani’s bank and falsely identified himself as Ohtani in order to wire funds from Ohtani’s account. Mizhuara succeeded in doing so, in part by answering the security questions associated with the account.

The affidavit states that when interviewed by investigators, Ohtani denied ever giving Mizuhara access to the account or authorizing the wire transactions. Ohtani stated he believed his agents and financial advisors were monitoring the bank account in question, and would inquire through Mizuhara if he had any questions about his financial activity.

This is where Mizuhara seemingly took advantage of his proximity to Ohtani, as well as his role as Ohtani’s translator. Mizuhara allegedly prevented other parties, including Ohtani’s agent, from accessing the account by telling them that Ohtani maintained it as a “private” account and did not want it monitored. In an interview with authorities, Ohtani’s agent stated he had no reason not to believe Mizuhara.

One notable example stated in the document contends that Mizuhara attended a meeting with the accounting firm tasked with preparing Ohtani’s tax returns in October 2022. Mizuhara attended alone, claimed that Ohtani was sick and could not attend, and assured the accountant that there was no risk of Ohtani filing an incorrect tax return as the bank account in question was private and did not bear interest.

Essentially, the affidavit alleges that Mizuhara used his privileged position to control access to Ohtani’s bank account, thus preventing Ohtani’s financial advisors from becoming aware that anything unusual was going on. Mizuhara also linked an email address that he operated to Ohtani’s account, and even impersonated Ohtani to bank employees in order to conduct wire transactions without Ohtani’s knowledge.

One of the key questions left unanswered was how anyone could have possibly missed so much money being transferred out of Ohtani’s account. Now we know that Mizuhara allegedly never gave anyone else the opportunity to look at the account while assuring Ohtani that it was being managed properly.

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