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Press Release

Orange County Man Agrees to Plead Guilty to Illegally Transferring Nearly $17 Million from MLB Star’s Account and Signing False Tax Return

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Central District of California

LOS ANGELES – A Japanese-language interpreter has agreed to plead guilty to federal criminal charges for illegally transferring almost $17 million from a Major League Baseball (MLB) player’s bank account – without the player’s knowledge or permission – to pay off his own substantial gambling debts incurred with an illegal bookmaking operation and for signing a false tax return, the Justice Department announced today.

Ippei Mizuhara, 39, of Newport Beach, has agreed to plead guilty to one count of bank fraud, which carries a statutory maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison, and one count of subscribing to a false tax return, which carries a sentence of up to three years in federal prison.

Mizuhara, who is charged in a two-count information filed today, is expected to enter a plea of guilty to the charges in United States District Court in the coming weeks. His arraignment is scheduled for May 14.

“The extent of this defendant’s deception and theft is massive,” said United States Attorney Martin Estrada. “He took advantage of his position of trust to take advantage of Mr. Ohtani and fuel a dangerous gambling habit. My office is committed to vindicating victims throughout our community and ensuring that wrongdoers face justice.”

“Our joint investigation with Homeland Security Investigations clearly showed Mr. Mizuhara not only stole from Mr. Ohtani, but also that he lied to the IRS about his income, “said Special Agent in Charge Tyler Hatcher, IRS Criminal Investigation, Los Angeles Field Office. “Mr. Mizuhara exploited his relationship with Mr. Ohtani to bankroll his own irresponsibility. In cases where we are able to identify them, we make every effort to make things right for victims, and this is one of those cases.”

“This investigation into Mr. Mizuhara and subsequent plea highlight the threat posed by financial crimes in the Los Angeles-area,” said HSI Los Angeles Special Agent Eddy Wang. “The HSI-led El Camino Real Financial Crimes Task Force is dedicated to protecting all victims of financial fraud from all walks of life.”

According to his plea agreement also filed today, Mizuhara was the translator and de facto manager of a professional baseball player identified in court documents as “Victim A,” but who in fact was MLB star Shohei Ohtani. As part of his job duties, Mizuhara regularly interacted with Ohtani’s sports agents and financial advisors – who did not speak Japanese – on behalf of Ohtani, who did not speak English. Although Mizuhara was an employee of the Los Angeles Angels MLB team, for whom Ohtani played from 2018 to 2023, and, later, the Los Angeles Dodgers, for whom Ohtani has played since 2024, Ohtani paid him separately for the additional work of driving him to meetings and interpreting for non-baseball-related activities.

In March 2018, Mizuhara accompanied Ohtani to a bank in Phoenix to help him open a bank account to deposit his MLB salary. Inside the bank branch, Mizuhara interpreted for Ohtani when the bank employee provided Ohtani the login information for this bank account.

Beginning in September 2021, Mizuhara began placing sports bets with an illegal bookmaker. Shortly thereafter, Mizuhara began to lose bets and quickly became indebted to the bookmaker. Unable to pay his gambling debts, Mizuhara orchestrated a scheme to deceive and cheat the bank to fraudulently obtain money from the account.

From no later than November 2021 to March 2024, Mizuhara used Ohtani’s password to successfully sign into the bank account and then changed the account’s security protocols without Ohtani’s knowledge or permission. Specifically, Mizuhara changed the registered email address and telephone number on the account so bank employees would call him – not Ohtani – when attempting to verify wire transfers from the account.

In furtherance of the scheme, Mizuhara impersonated Ohtani and used Ohtani’s personal identifying information to deceive the bank’s employees into authorizing wire transfers from the bank account. In total, Mizuhara called the bank and impersonated Ohtani on approximately 24 occasions.

During this time, Mizuhara regularly logged into Ohtani’s bank account and initiated wire transfers from the account to the bookmaker and his associates as payments for gambling debts. For example, on June 20, 2023, Mizuhara accessed the account without Ohtani’s permission and transferred $500,000 to one of the bookmaker’s associates.

In addition, in September 2023, Mizuhara needed $60,000 worth of dental work and Ohtani agreed to pay for it via a check drawn on a business account at a different bank. However, Mizuhara provided his dentist Ohtani’s debit card number for the bank account Ohtani had opened in Phoenix, charged $60,000 to that account, then deposited the $60,000 check into Mizuhara’s personal bank account.

From January 2024 to March 2024, Mizuhara purchased approximately $325,000 worth of baseball cards from online resellers such as eBay from Ohtani’s bank account with the intent to resell them later and for his own personal benefit.

When Ohtani’s sports agent and financial advisors asked Mizuhara for access to the bank account, Mizuhara lied and said Ohtani did not want them to access the account because it was private. In fact, Mizuhara did not want them to know that he had been stealing from Ohtani and had fraudulently obtained more than $16,975,010 from him.

Mizuhara also admitted in his plea agreement that in February 2024 he willfully made and subscribed to a false individual federal income tax return for the tax year 2022. On that tax return, Mizuhara falsely claimed that his total taxable income for that year was $136,865 when in fact he knew the amount was substantially higher and he knowingly failed to report additional income of $4.1 million. The source of the unreported income was from his scheme to defraud the bank.

Mizuhara, under penalty of perjury, signed the false income tax return and admitted in his plea agreement that he owes approximately $1,149,400 in additional taxes for the tax year 2022, plus additional interest and penalties.

IRS Criminal Investigation and Homeland Security Investigations are investigating this matter.

Assistant United States Attorneys Jeff Mitchell of the Major Frauds Section and Dan Boyle of the Environmental Crimes and Consumer Protection Section, and Special Assistant United States Attorney Rachel N. Agress are prosecuting this case.


Ciaran McEvoy
Public Information Officer
(213) 894-4465

Updated May 8, 2024

Financial Fraud
Press Release Number: 24-104