MLB investigating gambling, theft allegations involving Shohei Ohtani and interpreter Ippei Mizuhara

FILE - Los Angeles Dodgers' Shohei Ohtani, left, and interpreter Ippei Mizuhara answer questions during a news conference at Dodger Stadium on Dec. 14, 2023, in Los Angeles. Mizuhara has been fired from the Dodgers following allegations of illegal gambling and theft. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis,File)

FILE – Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani, left, and interpreter Ippei Mizuhara answer questions during a news conference at Dodger Stadium on Dec. 14, 2023, in Los Angeles. Mizuhara has been fired from the Dodgers following allegations of illegal gambling and theft. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis,File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Major League Baseball has opened a formal investigation into illegal gambling and theft allegations involving Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani and his interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara.

Mizuhara was let go from the team Wednesday following reports from the Los Angeles Times and ESPN about his alleged ties to an illegal bookmaker and claims from Ohtani’s attorneys that the two-way Japanese star had been the victim of a “massive theft.”

“Major League Baseball has been gathering information since we learned about the allegations involving Shohei Ohtani and Ippei (Mizuhara) from the news media,” the commissioner’s office said in a statement Friday. “Earlier today, our Department of Investigations began their formal process investigating the matter.”

Ohtani and the Dodgers were in Seoul, South Korea, for their opening series against the San Diego Padres when reports were published about alleged ties between the 39-year-old Mizuhara and an illegal bookmaker. The teams returned to the U.S. after Thursday night’s game and MLB did not make a public comment until announcing the investigation on Friday.

The IRS confirmed Thursday that Mizuhara and Mathew Bowyer, the alleged illegal bookmaker, are under criminal investigation through the agency’s Los Angeles Field Office. IRS Criminal Investigation spokesperson Scott Villiard said he could not provide additional details.

The Associated Press has been unable reach Mizuhara for comment. It is not clear if he has an attorney. Mizuhara was with the team in South Korea up until his firing. It’s unknown if he left the country.

MLB established its Department of Investigations in 2008 following allegations in the 2007 report by former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in the sport. The unit investigated three-time MVP Alex Rodriguez, who was suspended for the 2014 season for violations of the drug agreement and labor contract in connection with the Biogenesis investigation.

More recently, the unit probed Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer, leading to a 194-game suspension in 2022 under the sport’s domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse policy. A San Diego woman said Bauer beat and sexually abused her, an accusation the pitcher denied.

Ohtani is baseball’s bigger star, an unprecedented two-way player who has excelled at the plate and on the mound. He was a two-time AL MVP with the Los Angeles Angels before leaving as a free agent to sign a record $700 million, 10-year contract with the Dodgers in December.

Ohtani has not issued any statements and did not speak to reporters in the Dodgers clubhouse after Thursday night’s game.

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