HomeAsian AmericansShohei Ohtani could face felony charges in gambling scandal

Shohei Ohtani could face felony charges in gambling scandal

On the field, Shohei Ohtani has stunned the crowd with his impressive start with the Los Angeles Dodgers. But, off the field, an unfolding gambling case involving former friend and translator has legal experts concerned that the baseball star could face felony charges.

Major League Baseball (MLB) is investigating Ohtani for any potential involvement in former associate, Ippei Mizuhara’s gambling case.

Mizuhara allegedly withdrew $4.5M from Ohtani’s bank account to pay off gambling bookmaker Matt Bowyer. They are both currently under investigation by the IRS and the Department of Homeland Security.

Marca reports that, according to Mizuhara, Ohtani knew about his gambling problems. In fact, he said that Ohtani agreed to financially assist him with covering his gambling debts.

If the Japanese baseball sensation did help pay off his translator’s bookmaker he could face legal troubles.

Evan J. Davis, an attorney at Hochman Slain Tosher Perez, said that this action is illegal in the state of California. Knowingly paying off a gambling debt could result in a misdeamnor or felony charges. The Dodger would have to pay fines, face imprisonment for up to a year, or both.

Former federal prosecutor, Rocco Cipparone Jr. suggests that authorities could even charge Ohtani for money laundering. If he intentionally helped pay off Bowyer, these federal charges would include severe penalties, like a maximum 20 year prison sentence.

However, Ohtani has denied helping Mizuhara.

“Ippei has been stealing money from my account and has told lies,” Front Office Sports reports Ohtani said in a statement through new translator, Will Ireton. “I didn’t know Ippei has a gambling addiction or was in debt. I never agreed to pay off a debt.”

He continued, “It’s really hard to verbalize how I’m feeling at this point. The season is going to start so I will let my lawyers handle matters from here on out.”

Even if Ohtani is not charged, the scandal sheds light on the growing gambling problems in America.

According to the Economist, since 2018 38 states allow forms of sports betting. Prior to the Supreme Court disbarring the law that prevented states from having their own sports betting laws, it was only legal in Nevada.

Joe Maddon, Ohtani’s former manager expresses his concerns over sports gambling to the MLB.

“There are all these different things that people find entertaining to pass the time but they’re not necessarily the right thing to of and we’re making this gambling thing even easier,” he told the Tampa Bay Times. “I don’t get it. I’m not a subscriber. It could hurt baseball. It could hurt sports in general.”

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