Shohei Ohtani Officially Clear in Gambling Scandal

Written by:
C Costigan
Published on:
Jun/04/2024

Major League Baseball officially cleared Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani of any potential wrongdoing tied to a gambling scandal on Tuesday afternoon following an extensive probe.

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Ohtani’s ex-interpreter and close friend, Ippei Mizuhara, 39, was fired by the Los Angeles Dodgers following allegations of illegal gambling and "massive theft" of the Japanese baseball superstar's funds back in March.

"Based on the thoroughness of the federal investigation that was made public, the information MLB collected, and the criminal proceeding being resolved without being contested, MLB considers Shohei Ohtani a victim of fraud and this matter has been closed," MLB said in a statement.

The Dodgers also issued the following statement: "With today's plea in the criminal proceedings against Ippei Mizuhara and the conclusion of both federal and MLB investigations, the Dodgers are pleased that Shohei and the team can put this entire matter behind them and move forward in pursuit of a World Series title."

Mizuhara 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.

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.”

The exoneration of Ohtani in any wrongdoing comes just hours after the MLB banned another player for life for allegedly violating its gambling policy.

San Diego Padres infielder Tucupita Marcano, 24, has received a lifetime ban for betting on baseball after Major League Baseball received information that he wagered on games involving the Pittsburgh Pirates when he was with the team last season.

Marcano was found to have placed 387 baseball bets, including 231 MLB-related wagers, between Oct. 16, 2022 and Nov. 1, 2023, totaling over $150,000.

MLB announced Marcano's lifetime ban Tuesday, saying that an investigation showed he violated Rule 21(d)(2) of the league's betting rules and policies.

"The strict enforcement of Major League Baseball's rules and policies governing gambling conduct is a critical component of upholding our most important priority: protecting the integrity of our games for the fans," commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. "The longstanding prohibition against betting on Major League Baseball games by those in the sport has been a bedrock principle for over a century. We have been clear that the privilege of playing in baseball comes with a responsibility to refrain from engaging in certain types of behavior that are legal for other people."

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