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Dodgers Fire Shohei Ohtani's Interpreter After He's Reportedly Linked to Illegal Gambling

The 29-year-old MLB player's lawyers say he is a victim of "massive theft"

<p>Getty</p> Shohei Ohtani and Ippei Mizuhara

Getty

Shohei Ohtani and Ippei Mizuhara

The Los Angeles Dodgers fired Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, after he was accused of “massive theft" by Ohtani's lawyers. Muzuhara allegedly used the 29-year-old’s money for gambling bets with an alleged illegal bookmaker who is currently under federal investigation, reports The Los Angeles Times, ESPN and The Athletic.

“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," Ohtani's attorneys at Berk Brettler LLP said in a statement to ESPN and The Los Angeles Times.

Mizuhara has served as Ohtani's interpreter since his MLB debut in 2018.

"The Dodgers are aware of media reports and are gathering information. The team can confirm that interpreter Ippei Mizuhara has been terminated. The team has no further comment at this time," a representative for the Dodgers said, per MLB.com.

The Los Angeles Times first discovered the MLB star’s name in an investigation involving an Orange County resident named Matthew Bowyer. It was reported that Mizuhara, 39, allegedly placed illegal bets with Bowyer, with wire transfers under Ohtani’s name.

"Mathew Bowyer never met, spoke with, or texted, or had contact in any way with Shohei Ohtani," Bowyer's attorney, Diane Bass, told the Los Angeles Times. Bass said her client has not been charged with a crime.

<p>Chris Coduto/Getty</p> Shohei Ohtani during workouts at Camelback Ranch on February 14, 2024 in Glendale, Arizona.

Chris Coduto/Getty

Shohei Ohtani during workouts at Camelback Ranch on February 14, 2024 in Glendale, Arizona.

Related: L.A. Dodgers Superstar Shohei Ohtani Gifts Porsche to Wife of Teammate Who Let Him Take Jersey Number

In 2021, Mizuhara began placing sports bets — which are illegal in California — on international soccer games, the NBA, the NFL and college football, but never baseball, according to ESPN.

"I never bet on baseball," Mizuhara told ESPN on Tuesday. "That's 100 percent. I knew that rule. ... We have a meeting about that in spring training." (The MLB gambling rule forbids “any player, umpire, or Club or League official or employee” to bet on MLB games or make illegal bets on other sports.)

Although Ohtani’s name was on the wire transfers, Mizuhara and multiple other sources told ESPN that the MLB star does not gamble. Mizuhara reportedly told ESPN that his gambling debts totaled $4.5 million.

A spokesman for Ohtani first told ESPN that the pitcher transferred funds to help his interpreter’s gambling debt on Tuesday. However, Ohtani's spokesman "disavowed Mizuhara's account and said Ohtani's lawyers would issue a statement," ESPN reports.

<p>David Durochik/Diamond Images via Getty</p> Shohei Ohtani on February 27, 2024 in Glendale, Arizona.

David Durochik/Diamond Images via Getty

Shohei Ohtani on February 27, 2024 in Glendale, Arizona.

In a Wednesday interview with ESPN, Mizuhara claimed Ohtani did not know of his gambling debts after he claimed on Tuesday that Ohtani was aware of his debts. "Obviously, this is all my fault, everything I've done," he told ESPN Wednesday. "I'm ready to face all the consequences."

Mizuhara and Ohtani attended the Dodgers' season-opening game and were spotted in the dugout in Seoul, South Korea, on Wednesday. The Dodgers won 5-2 over the San Diego Padres. After the game, Mizuhara told the clubhouse that the story about his gambling addiction would be published soon, per a Dodgers spokesperson, ESPN reports.

Related: All About Shohei Ohtani's Parents, Kayoko and Toru Ohtani

<p>Meg Oliphant/Getty</p> Shohei Ohtani is introduced by the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on December 14, 2023 in Los Angeles, California

Meg Oliphant/Getty

Shohei Ohtani is introduced by the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on December 14, 2023 in Los Angeles, California

Ohtani joined the MLB in 2018 and signed on with the Los Angeles Angels. In December 2023, the pitcher signed a 10-year, $700-million contract with the Dodgers, making Ohtani the highest-paid player in North American sports history.

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Berk Brettler LLP, Diane Bass and the MLB did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for more information on Wednesday.

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