Ippei Mizuhara’s Scheme with Shohei Otani’s Wallet and the Curious Case of Baseball Cards | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Ippei Mizuhara’s Scheme with Shohei Otani’s Wallet and the Curious Case of Baseball Cards

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Ippei Mizuhara, the former interpreter who supported Shohei Ohtani’s success, gradually revealed his maliciousness as details emerged.

“I’m done.”

Ippei Mizuhara, the former interpreter for Shohei Ohtani of the Dodgers, has been charged with bank fraud. When he realized that the case was about to come to light, he sent a message to Matthew Bowyer, the banker.

The illegal gambling and fraudulent money transfer issue involving suspect Mizuhara, which engulfed both the Japanese and American baseball leagues, was fully revealed at a press conference held by investigative authorities on April 11th. Federal prosecutor Martin Estrada of the Department of Homeland Security, who attended the conference, stated that there was no evidence indicating that Ohtani had approved transfers to bookmakers from his own account, asserting,

“We consider Ohtani to be a victim.”

According to reports from media outlets like ESPN, Mizuhara allegedly gained unauthorized access to Ohtani’s bank account and illegally transferred over $16 million (approximately ¥2.45 billion) to illicit bookmakers. This occurred over a period of about two years, from December 2021 to January 2024, with approximately 19,000 wagers placed. The total amount wagered reached a staggering $182.9 million (approximately ¥27.8 billion), resulting in losses of $40.7 million (approximately ¥6.2 billion) after deducting winnings.

Exploiting his position as the “de facto manager,” Mizuhara failed to share Ohtani’s bank account information, where his salary was deposited upon his relocation in 2018, with agents and accountants. He claimed this was because Ohtani himself “didn’t want it disclosed.” Furthermore, Mizuhara admitted to impersonating Ohtani multiple times to the bank to facilitate the massive transfers.

According to the authorities.

“At times when bets were won, the funds were not deposited into Ohtani’s account but into Mizuhara’s personal bank account.”

Indeed, it seems Mizuhara had essentially treated Ohtani as his personal wallet. Online, voices expressing sentiments such as 

“Too extreme.”

“He’s downright evil.” 

“I’m worried Ohtani might become distrustful of people.” 

Mizuhara reportedly came out as a gambling addict in front of his teammates. However, considering the timeline, as he began his maneuvers as early as 2018, before the illegal gambling began in December 2021, there are doubts about whether he can truly be considered addicted.

Furthermore, according to authorities, between January and March of this year, Mizuhara purchased around 1000 baseball cards under the alias “Jay Min,” totaling $325,000 (approximately ¥49 million), with the funds also originating from Ohtani’s account. These items were directly delivered to the Dodgers’ clubhouse, indicating a bold crime.



A sports newspaper baseball reporter familiar with the suspect remarks with a heavy heart, 

“Baseball cards are collectible items unrelated to illegal gambling. The fact that Mizuhara boldly purchased them from Ohtani’s account and had them delivered to the clubhouse shows how confident he was in not getting caught. Mizuhara’s darkness runs deeper than we imagined.”

Suspicions have also arisen regarding these baseball cards. Generally, the most common among collectors are MLB cards from “Topps,” which are traded at high prices ranging from hundreds of yen to several million yen depending on their rarity.

“Limited edition cards or cards with handwritten signatures are traded for tens of thousands to millions of yen each. Mizuhara purchased around 1000 cards for ¥49 million, so the unit price per card is ¥49,000. He likely purchased rare cards that could become treasures in the future. Baseball cards and Pokémon cards have fans worldwide, and they are often treated as investment assets,” the sports newspaper reporter adds.

There are suspicions raised in some circles that Mizuhara may have carried the baseball cards he purchased and planned to collect “handwritten signatures from star players like Ohtani and others he met during road trips.” However, as of now, there is no confirmation of this.

“Judging by Mizuhara’s actions, one can sense meticulous planning. From what point did he start deceiving Ohtani? His future statements will be crucial,” the same sports newspaper reporter concludes.

Mizuhara, whose cunning disguise has finally been revealed, seems to have acknowledged that “it’s over.”

  • PHOTO Kojiro Yamada

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