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Ippei Mizuhara Pleads Not Guilty to Bank and Tax Fraud Charges

Facing up to 30 years in prison for bank fraud, Ippei Mizuhara, MLB superstar Shohei Ohtani's ex-interpreter, has agreed to plead guilty at a TBA court date.

Ippei Mizuhara, the longtime former interpreter for Shohei Ohtani, pleaded not guilty to bank and tax fraud charges on Tuesday, May 14 at the federal court in Los Angeles.

According to The Associated Press, this was "a procedural step as the case moves forward, even though he has already agreed to the plea deal."

It was widely reported on May 8 that Mizuhara would plead guilty to both charges.

The 39-year-old Mizuhara faces a maximum sentence in federal prison of 30 years for bank fraud and three years for filing a false tax return.

Summarizing the matter, The Associated Press reported that Michael G Freedman, Mizuhara's defense attorney, said his client "planned to plead guilty in the future."

By pleading guilty, Mizuhara is expected to receive a reduced sentence.

Sentencing is set to take place at the federal court in Santa Ana, which is about 50 km from Los Angeles in Orange County, California. 

US Magistrate Jean P Rosenbluth presided over Tuesday's arraignment in Los Angeles.

Up next: a status conference, aka a court-ordered meeting, is scheduled for June 14.

For the sentencing, US District Judge John W Holcomb will be in charge.

Ippei Mizuhara Stole Millions from Ohtani for Gambling, Federal Investigators Say

The United States Department of Justice, Homeland Security and the Internal Revenue Service launched a joint investigation after allegations of Miuzhara's "massive theft" from Ohtani were reported in March. Ohtani's Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres were playing MLB's season-opening series in Seoul on March 20 and 21 when the revelation came out.

On April 12, Mizuhara was charged with bank fraud in Los Angeles. At the heart of the federal investigation is the following: Mizuhara is accused of theft totaling $17 million USD (¥2.6 billion JPY) from Ohtani's bank account in Arizona from November 2021 to March 2024. He reportedly used the stolen funds to make payments via wire transfers to an illegal bookie. Mizuhara is also accused of falsifying his tax return in 2022. He failed to declare more than $1 million in income (¥156 million), according to a US Department of Justice press release.

As the case proceeded, details have also emerged of the gravity of Mizuhara's gambling addiction. He reportedly placed approximately 19,000 bets between December 2021 and January 2024 with the illegal sports gambling operation, according to federal prosecutors. This boils down to about 25 wagers each day. Sports gambling is an illegal activity in California, though it is permitted in 38 of 50 US states.

How much money was involved in these debts?

Mizuhara rang up $142 million (¥22.1 billion) in winnings from illegal sports gambling with a California bookie and also accumulated $183 million (¥28.5 billion) in debts, according to the probe.

Ohtani is Not the Focus of the Investigation

Federal authorities have stated repeatedly that two-time American League MVP Ohtani had no knowledge of Mizuhara's illegal gambling nor was he involved in any wagering on sports.

Meanwhile, Ohtani is having an excellent first season with the Dodgers, batting .361, best in the majors (through May 14). He also leads the National League with 12 home runs and has 30 RBIs in 42 games.

It's just a shoe!

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Author: Ed Odeven

Find Ed on JAPAN Forward's dedicated website, SportsLook. Follow his [Japan Sports Notebook] on Sundays, [Odds and Evens] during the week, and X (formerly Twitter) @ed_odeven

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