Shohei Ohtani Ex-Interpreter Pleads Guilty to $17 Million Theft in Gambling Debt Case

Written by:
Nagesh Rath
Published on:
May/09/2024

The former interpreter for Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani has agreed to plead guilty to bank and tax fraud in a sports betting case in which prosecutors allege he stole nearly $17 million from the Japanese baseball player to pay off gambling debts to a California-based illegal bookie.  Federal prosecutors made the announcement late Wednesday amid a whirlwind of news surrounding this scandal, even if indirectly.

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Ohtani's former translator Ippei Mizuhara shocked baseball fans from the U.S. to Japan when the news broke in March.

Mizuhara will plead guilty to one count of bank fraud and one count of subscribing to a false tax return, the U.S. Justice Department announced. The bank fraud charge carries a maximum of 30 years in federal prison, and the false tax return charge carries a sentence of up to three years in federal prison.

The plea agreement says Mizuhara will be required to pay Ohtani restitution that could total nearly $17 million, as well as more than $1 million to the IRS. Those amounts could change prior to sentencing.

Mizuhara will enter his guilty plea in the coming weeks and is set to be arraigned May 14, prosecutors said.

“The extent of this defendant’s deception and theft is massive,” United States Attorney Martin Estrada said in a statement. “He took advantage of his position of trust to take advantage of Mr. Ohtani and fuel a dangerous gambling habit.”

This news broke in the hours leading up to the sentencing of Las Vegas executive Scott Sibella in an LA courtroom Wednesday evening.  

Sibella, 61, pleaded guilty earlier this year to one count of failure to file reports of suspicious transactions. Sibella served as president of the MGM Grand from August 2017 until February 2019. On Wednesday (May 8) he learned his fate  A judge sentenced him to 1 year probation and he will have to pay a $9,500 fine. 

Sibella failed to report that a convicted Southern California bookie, Wayne Nix, paid a marker at the MGM Grand with $120,000 in cash in 2018.

Sibella told unidentified law enforcement agents he “heard that Nix was in the booking business” but didn’t want to know the source of his money. “I stay out of it. If we know, we can’t allow them to gamble.”

A federal probe into possible similar money laundering activities in Las Vegas continues.  Sources told ESPN that one of the bookies banned from Vegas casinos is none other than Matt Bowyer.  He's the bookie utilized by Mizuhara.

In Las Vegas, Bowyer was known as a high-roller at Resorts World Las Vegas, according to Smith. He is now cooperating with the federal investigation.

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Then came another bombshell news report late Thursday afternoon. "Real Housewives" star Jennifer Pedranti’s fiancé is now embroiled in the gambling scheme directly involving Ohtani's ex-translator.

ESPN reported on Wednesday that interpreter Ippei Mizuhara wired money to Ryan Boyajian to pay his gambling debts.  Boyajian regularly appeared on the show.

Mizuhara’s illegal bookmaker told the interpreter he could pay his gambling debts by wiring money to “Associate 1” who, according to ESPN, is Boyajian.

“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,” a statement from the office of United States Attorney Martin Estrada reads.

“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.”

Steven Katzman, Boyajian’s criminal attorney, told ESPN that his client is working with federal authorities, while sources said that the reality star received immunity in return for his testimony.

“Because there is an active investigation and Ryan is working with the authorities, he can’t confirm or deny what is going on,” Katzman said. “He is not a bookmaker or a sub-bookie."

Boyajian and the alleged illegal bookmaker in question — who ESPN identified as Mathew Bowyer — reportedly spent Mizuhara’s payments in “marker” accounts at casinos.

As for Mizhura, if convicted, he's facing up to 30 years in prison.

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