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    Questions raised about resume of Shohei Ohtani’s ex-interpreter
    • March 25, 2024

    UC Riverside officials have denied that Shohei Ohtani‘s former interpreter Ippei Mizuhara attended the university, as Mizuhara claimed in his publicly distributed resume — in one of multiple questions raised about the recently fired Mizuhara’s credentials.

    A story published in The Athletic quoted a UCR spokesperson saying the school’s “records do not show a student by the name of Ippei Mizuhara having attended UC Riverside.” In February, UC Riverside spokesperson Sandra Martínez told the Southern California News Group that the university has no record of Mizuhara attending UCR.

    The bio of Mizuhara, who graduated from Diamond Bar High School, said he graduated from UCR in 2007.

    The Athletic article also questioned whether Mizuhara actually spent spring training in 2012 working for the New York Yankees as an interpreter for Japanese pitcher Hideki Okajima, as claimed in the Angels media guides when Ohtani played for the Angels.

    RELATED: Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter gets cheers from his old school, Diamond Bar High

    And the Boston Red Sox released a statement insisting that Mizuhara never worked for the team, disputing news reports that Mizuhara was Okajima’s interpreter with Boston in 2010.

    Mizuhara, who lives in Diamond Bar, could not be reached for comment.

    Major League Baseball on Friday, March 22, opened a formal investigation after Mizuhara was fired by the Los Angeles Dodgers amid allegations he stole millions of dollars from the Japanese slugger to place bets with a purported illegal bookmaker.

    The story broke Wednesday, March 20, when the Dodgers fired Mizuhara while the team was in Seoul, South Korea, for a season-opening two-game series against the San Diego Padres.

    Meanwhile, a former soccer coach and English teacher of Mizuhara’s at Diamond Bar High School said he was surprised to learn of the allegations.

    “He never exhibited gambling behavior,” Kemp Wells, the school’s head soccer coach, wrote Saturday, March 23, in a text message. “But adults are different than high-school-age kids. Being around so much privilege can make a person reach for the same. Gambling offers that.”

    Like many, Wells — who spoke for himself and not the high school — said he was thrown off by Mizuhara’s two accounts of what occurred.

    “There were two stories,” Wells wrote. “One, Ohtani knew about his gambling and paid his debts. Later, he said Ippei hacked his accounts. The first story seems more plausible.”

    Wells said he felt bad for his former student and player, who has been a constant next to baseball’s biggest superstar since he came to the U.S.

    “It seemed like they had a genuine friendship,” Wells said.

    According to ESPN, MLB is expected to request interviews with all parties, including Ohtani and Mizuhara. But the sports network said MLB cannot compel Mizuhara to cooperate since he no longer is employed by the league. Ohtani can also decline to cooperate as a member of the MLB Players Association, the report said.

    #Dodgers announce that Shohei Ohtani’s press conference will be at approximately 2:45. No cameras will be allowed in the interview room but it will be carried on SNLA and MLB Network. Ohtani is not expected to take questions

    — Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) March 25, 2024

    Ohtani is set to speak to the news media Monday afternoon, March 25, in his first public remarks since the scandal arose.

    The star player’s attorneys, responding to inquiries from the Los Angeles Times, told the paper in a statement Wednesday, “In the course of responding to recent media inquiries, we discovered that Shohei has been the victim of a massive theft and we are turning the matter over to the authorities.”

    According to The Times, the paper made inquiries about the matter after learning that Ohtani’s name had surfaced in a federal investigation of Orange County resident and alleged illegal bookmaker Mathew Bowyer.

    Sources told the paper that Mizuhara had allegedly stolen money from the Dodgers star to place bets, and the amount of money involved was in the millions of dollars.

    ESPN reported Wednesday there had been at least $4.5 million in wire transfers from Ohtani’s bank account to the bookmaking operation. A spokesman for Ohtani initially told ESPN that Ohtani had transferred the money to cover Mizuhara’s gambling debts.

    Bowyer’s attorney, Diane Bass, told The Times and ESPN that he has never met or spoken with Ohtani. A source told ESPN that Bowyer was aware Ohtani’s name was on the wire transfers, but he didn’t ask any questions as long as the money was coming in.

    According to ESPN, Mizuhara gave the network a 90-minute interview Tuesday night, March 19, in which he laid out his side of the story — an interview arranged by an Ohtani spokesman. But after the interview, the same spokesman disavowed Mizuhara’s account and said a statement would be made instead by Ohtani’s attorneys, which happened Wednesday alleging the “massive theft.”

    During the ESPN interview, Mizuhara, 39, said he asked Ohtani last year to pay off his gambling debts, and Ohtani, while unhappy about it, agreed to do so. Mizuhara told the network that Ohtani had no involvement in any betting, and the interpreter insisted that he didn’t realize his betting activities were illegal in California. He also said he never bet on any baseball games.

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    On Wednesday, however, Mizuhara recanted his comments, telling ESPN that Ohtani had no knowledge of his gambling debts and denying that Ohtani had transferred any money to the bookmaking operation.

    According to The Times and ESPN, the investigation into Bowyer, who has not been charged with a crime, involves the same prosecutors who investigated an Orange County-based gambling ring led by Wayne Nix, 46, a former minor league baseball player from Newport Coast. Nix pleaded guilty to a federal charge of helping operate an illegal sports gambling business. A sentencing date has not been set.

    Nix’s longtime partner in the gambling operation, Edon Kagasoff, 45, of Lake Forest, pleaded guilty in April 2022 to one count of conspiracy to operate an illegal gambling business and was sentenced last year to six months of probation and a $1,000 fine. He was also ordered to forfeit $3.1 million he earned through the operation.

    Contributing writer David Downey contributed to this report.

    ​ Orange County Register