Greenwich Time (Sunday)

Judge in sports betting case orders ex-interprete­r for Ohtani to get gambling addiction treatment

- By Stefanie Dazio

LOS ANGELES — A federal judge on Friday ordered the former longtime interprete­r for Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani to undergo gambling addiction treatment in a sports betting case stemming from allegation­s he stole $16 million from the Japanese baseball player’s bank account to pay off debts.

Ippei Mizuhara exploited his personal and profession­al relationsh­ip with Ohtani to plunder millions from the two-way player’s account for years, prosecutor­s said, at times impersonat­ing Ohtani to bankers.

Mizuhara only spoke on Friday to answer the judge’s questions, saying “yes” when the judge asked if he understood several parts of the case and his bond conditions.

Hours after court, his attorney Michael G. Freedman issued a statement saying Mizuhara hopes to “reach an agreement with the government to resolve this case as quickly as possible so that he can take responsibi­lity.” He further added Mizuhara “wishes to apologize to Mr. Ohtani, the Dodgers, Major League Baseball, and his family.”

Ohtani told the Los Angeles Times on Friday he was “very grateful for the Department of Justice’s investigat­ion.”

“For me personally, this marks a break from this, and I’d like to focus on baseball,” he said from the field at Dodger Stadium ahead of the team’s game against the San Diego Padres.

United States Magistrate Judge Maria A. Audero also ordered Mizuhara to be released on an unsecured $25,000 bond, colloquial­ly known as a signature bond. That means that Mizuhara does not have to put up any cash or collateral to be released. If he violates the conditions of his bond, then he will be on the hook for $25,000.

Mizuhara turned himself in Friday ahead of his initial court appearance. He is charged with one count of bank fraud and faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted. Wearing a dark suit and a white collared shirt, he entered the courtroom with his ankles shackled, but was not handcuffed. The judge approved his attorney’s request to remove the shackles.

Freedman and the prosecutor­s declined to answer questions from the media outside the courthouse after the hearing concluded.

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