Source: Ohtani's reps ask for probe into theft

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Representatives of Los Angeles Dodgers superstar Shohei Ohtani have contacted law enforcement authorities and asked them to investigate a “massive theft” of money from the player, a source with direct knowledge told ESPN on Thursday.

The source declined to say which agency had been contacted.

A Major League Baseball source told ESPN on Thursday that the league has not been contacted by federal authorities. The source said MLB’s next step would be to gather facts, which could take time in light of the ongoing federal investigation.

On Wednesday, lawyers for the Dodgers pitcher and designated hitter said he had been “a victim of a massive theft” after reporters asked an Ohtani spokesman questions about why $4.5 million in wire transfers had been sent from Ohtani’s bank account to a bookmaking operation.

The theft allegation came after his spokesman initially told ESPN that the slugger had transferred the funds to cover the gambling debts of Ohtani’s former interpreter and friend, Ippei Mizuhara.

Mizuhara on Tuesday evening told ESPN the same and laid out his story in great detail, including saying that Ohtani had sat with him, and the two transferred the money in $500,000 increments in several different settings. But as ESPN prepared to publish a story Wednesday, the spokesman disavowed Mizuhara’s account.

In a subsequent interview with Mizuhara, he told ESPN he had not been truthful — that Ohtani had no knowledge of his gambling activities, debts or efforts to repay him.

On Thursday, a source close to Ohtani gave an explanation for the changing storylines: As Ohtani’s handlers tried to determine what had happened, they initially relied solely on Mizuhara, who continued to translate for Ohtani.

After Wednesday’s season-opening game in South Korea, Dodgers officials called a clubhouse meeting and told players a negative story was coming later in the day, a team official said, and Mizuhara apologized, saying he had a gambling addiction. It was then, the official said, that Ohtani understood for the first time what was happening and began asking questions.

When asked Wednesday if he had interpreted anything incorrectly on purpose, Mizuhara told ESPN, “No, I have never done that.”

Mizuhara, when asked by ESPN on Wednesday afternoon if he had been accused of theft, said he was told he could not comment but declined to say by whom. He did not respond to a subsequent question about whether he had taken any money without Ohtani’s knowledge.

The developments this week came as federal investigators are examining the operation run by Southern California bookmaker Mathew Bowyer. The wire-transfer payments were sent from Ohtani’s account to an associate of Bowyer’s, according to multiple sources and bank data reviewed by ESPN.

Multiple sources, including Mizuhara, told ESPN that Ohtani does not gamble and that the funds covered Mizuhara’s losses.

ESPN had reviewed bank information showing Ohtani’s name on two $500,000 payments sent in September and October.

While sports betting is legal in nearly 40 states, it remains illegal in California. Government-regulated sportsbooks require bettors to pay up front for their wagers, while illegal bookmakers accept bets on credit.

Sources close to the gambling operation told ESPN that Bowyer dealt directly with Mizuhara, who placed bets on international soccer matches and other sports — but not baseball — starting in 2021. A source said Bowyer was aware of the name on the wire transfers but chose not to ask any questions as long as payments came in; however, the source said Bowyer allowed people to believe Ohtani was a client in order to boost business.

“Mr. Bowyer never met or spoke with Shohei Ohtani,” Bowyer’s attorney, Diane Bass, told ESPN. She declined to answer any other questions.

Mizuhara and Ohtani are friends in addition to their professional relationship. Mizuhara has interpreted for Ohtani since the star moved to the United States in 2018, accompanying the two-way player in dugouts, locker rooms, player lounges, on trips, in media settings and elsewhere, making Mizuhara highly recognizable to baseball fans.

He has been the interpreter for Ohtani with team managers and coaches and goes over scouting reports with Ohtani during games. The two are rarely separated. Mizuhara runs errands for the pitcher, carries his water bottle and is so ever-present that an Ohtani teammate once referred to the duo as having a “brotherhood” that goes beyond friendship.

Mizuhara had a contract with the Los Angeles Angels when Ohtani played there and signed with the Dodgers this offseason. Mizuhara confirmed to ESPN he has been paid between $300,000 and $500,000 annually. He was fired by the Dodgers on Wednesday.

Mizuhara told ESPN on Tuesday his bets were placed on international soccer, the NBA, the NFL and college football.

“I never bet on baseball,” Mizuhara said. “That’s 100%. I knew that rule. … We have a meeting about that in spring training.”

MLB players and employees are allowed to bet on sports other than baseball but not with illegal bookmakers or offshore websites. The league rulebook states that bets placed with illegal bookmakers are subject to punishment at the commissioner’s discretion.

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