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Prosecutors Move Quickly to Clear Ohtani of Gambling Suspicions

Moving rapidly to absolve baseball star Shohei Ohtani of betting on sports, and to remove a possible cloud over American sports as a whole, federal prosecutors have charged Ohtani's former interpreter Ippei Mizuhara with stealing $16 million from him to pay for a gambling addiction, reports the New York Times. The account provided by the authorities largely confirms what Ohtani told the public in late March, shortly after reports first surfaced that $4.5 million had been transferred from Ohtani’s account to Mizuhara. At that time, Ohtani accused Mizuhara of stealing from him and said he did not bet on sports himself. Prosecutors said Mizuhara exploited his personal access to Ohtani and the fact that he doesn't speak English to carry out his theft.


The case is a very public example of the fine line sports leagues are walking in regard to sports gambling. Tyler Hatcher, special agent in charge with the I.R.S. Criminal Investigation unit who was involved with the case, said that “protecting sports at the highest levels” is a priority of the federal government. E. Martin Estrada, the U.S. attorney for the Central District of California, said the investigation moved so rapidly because of high public interest and questions about Ohtani's involvement. So far, there is no indication that Ohtani knew about Mizuhara placing bets, authorities said. They also said they had obtained recordings of calls between Mizuhara and the bank that had Ohtani’s account in which Mizuhara pretended to be Ohtani. Excitement around Ohtani has been especially intense since he signed a 10-year, $700 million contract with the Dodgers in December. Estrada suggested that the government marshaled more resources for the case because of its high-profile nature.

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