Mizuhara surrenders to feds, free on $25K bond

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The former longtime interpreter for Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani has surrendered to authorities and later appeared in U.S. District Court on Friday afternoon.

Ippei Mizuhara surrendered to law enforcement Friday and was released shortly after on an unsecured $25,000 bond, colloquially known as a signature bond. That means Mizuhara does not have to put up any cash or collateral to be released. If he violates the conditions of his bond, he will be on the hook for $25,000.

United States Magistrate Judge Maria A. Audero also ordered Mizuhara to undergo gambling addiction treatment related to the sports betting case. He exploited his personal and professional relationship with Ohtani to plunder more than $16 million from the two-way player’s bank account for years, prosecutors said, at times impersonating Ohtani to bankers so he could cover his bets and debts.

Mizuhara only spoke on Friday to answer the judge’s questions, saying “yes” when Audero 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 wishes to apologize to Mr. Ohtani, the Dodgers, Major League Baseball, and his family,” the statement continued. “As noted in court, he is also eager to seek treatment for his gambling. We have no further comment at this time, but Mr. Mizuhara will be providing further comment as the legal process proceeds.”

Ohtani, for his part, spoke from the field at Dodger Stadium ahead of the team’s game against the San Diego Padres.

“I’m very grateful for the Department of Justice’s investigation,” Ohtani told the Los Angeles Times on Friday. “For me personally, this marks a break from this, and I’d like to focus on baseball.”

Wearing a dark suit and a white collared shirt, he entered the courtroom with his ankles shackled, but he was not handcuffed. The judge approved his attorney’s request to remove the shackles.

Mizuhara turned himself in Friday ahead of his initial court appearance. He is charged with one count of bank fraud, which can carry a maximum fine of up to $1 million and/or up to 30 years in prison, according to federal sentencing guidelines.

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

Other bond conditions stipulate that Mizuhara cannot gamble, either electronically or in-person, or go inside any gambling establishments, or associate with any known bookmakers.

Mizuhara is also prohibited from contacting any victim or witness in the case in any form. He is scheduled to be arraigned on May 9.

Freedman told the judge that his client already planned to undergo gambling addiction treatment.

The hearing lasted about 10 minutes inside a courtroom packed with press, much of it Japanese media.

The judge told Mizuhara to let her know if he did not understand any of the bond conditions as she read them. “This is probably your only chance to interrupt a judge,” she said, joking.

Mizuhara was ordered to submit to drug testing, surrender his passport and remain within the Central District of California’s jurisdiction. The judge noted his family ties to the area, his longtime residency here and his self-surrender Friday morning when she approved the bond.

The judge also noted that Mizuhara does not have a criminal history.

Ohtani was not identified by name in the proceeding. Prosecutor Jeff Mitchell, in response to a question from the judge, only said, “The victim has been notified.”

Prosecutors said there was no evidence that Ohtani was involved in or aware of Mizuhara’s gambling, and authorities said Ohtani is cooperating with investigators.

Mizuhara was not asked to enter a plea during Friday’s brief court appearance in downtown Los Angeles. A criminal complaint, filed Thursday, detailed the alleged scheme through evidence that included text messages, financial records and recordings of phone calls.

Major League Baseball opened its own investigation after the controversy surfaced, and the Dodgers immediately fired Mizuhara.

Information from ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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