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Shohei Ohtani’s former interpreter enters guilty plea

ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. (NBC, KYMA/KECY) - Baseball player Shohei Ohtani's former interpreter, who is accused of stealing nearly $17 million from the Los Angeles Dodger star, entered a guilty plea on Tuesday.

Ippei Mizuhara agreed to plea guilty to one count of bank fraud and one count of subscribing to a false tax return as part of a deal with prosecutors.

Mizuhara was scheduled to appear in federal court in Orange County, California for the change-of-plea hearing after reaching a plea agreement as part of a broader federal sports gambling investigation.

Prosecutors accused Mizuhara of placing a staggering number of bets using stolen money to fund his sports betting.

Now, the former interpreter could face up to 30 years in federal prison under the plea deal.

After the plea hearing, the federal prosecutor bringing the charges said while this is a high profile case, this kind of fraud's not uncommon.

"Mr. Mizuhara has gone before a federal judge. He stated under oath, that he was fully responsible for this fraud. He's accepted his responsibility. He's admitted to his guilt, and we'll proceed to sentencing in this case, and finally, bring vindication to the victim. But also the larger community that demands we address these types of fraud cases. Aggressively and with justice in mind."

Martin Estrada, United States Attorney

Ohtani and his attorneys have maintained that he was completely unaware of the "massive theft."

"Mr Ohtani is considered a victim in this case. It is clear from the evidence that he did not profit from this, did not benefit from this. He, in fact, was harmed substantially by this. What we saw was Mr. Mizuhara was the one that based on his addiction to sports betting took advantage of his friend, the person who had given him an opportunity and victimized Mr. Ohtani."

Martin Estrada, United States Attorney

Major League Baseball (MLB) launched its own investigation concurrent to the federal one by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

U.S. District Judge John W. Holcomb scheduled a sentencing hearing for Friday, October 25.

Prosecutors say they will likely seek jail-time for the Japanese national. They also say Mizuhara could be deported.

Article Topic Follows: California News

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