Prosecution of Ex-Interpreter: Bottomless Swamp of Gambling Caused Loss of ¥6.2 Billion

The pleasure of winning bets was unforgettable, and he could not stop gambling. Instead he ran up debts trying to recoup his losses, and as a result he made no bones about telling lies, losing his integrity.

This incident clearly illustrates the horror of a gambling addiction.

U.S. federal prosecutors have charged Ippei Mizuhara — the former interpreter for Major League Baseball player Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Dodgers — with bank fraud, alleging that he stole more than $16 million (about ¥2.4 billion) from Ohtani’s bank account.

According to the prosecutors’ announcement, Mizuhara continued to transfer money without Ohtani’s permission to pay his debts from illegal sports gambling. Mizuhara placed about 19,000 bets during a period of slightly over two years, for an unbelievable average of 25 times a day.

His winning bets totaled about $142 million (about ¥21.8 billion), but the losing bets came to about $183 million (about ¥28 billion), meaning he lost about ¥6.2 billion in gambling. This shows how Mizuhara was so obsessed with gambling that his awareness of money became numb.

When Mizuhara lost a bet, he is said to have begged the bookmaker to raise the betting limit, saying, “Just one last time.” This can be described as typical behavior for a person who is trying to recoup their losses, and is getting deeper and deeper into gambling.

Mizuhara allegedly called the bank and posed as Ohtani to prevent suspicious money transfers from being exposed. When an accountant or agent asked to be allowed to verify the account, he allegedly refused, explaining that Ohtani wanted to keep the information private.

Mizuhara may have told lie after lie in an attempt to conceal the fact that he had gone so far as to commit a crime in order to continue his gambling.

When the bookmaker was unable to contact Mizuhara, they allegedly threatened him, saying they would go to Ohtani and ask him how they could get in touch with the interpreter.

Cornered, Mizuhara asked Ohtani to corroborate his claim that Ohtani had paid his gambling debts, but the player refused. The seriousness of a gambling addiction lies in the fact that a person cannot stop until it destroys their life.

In Japan, only government-sanctioned gambling is allowed. In recent years, however, illegal online casinos, where betting can be done at any time via smartphones, have become rampant, increasing the risk of gambling dependence.

A sports betting site has even been set up overseas to predict the outcomes of games at Japan’s National High School Baseball Invitational Tournament.

Lifting the ban on sports gambling was discussed in Japan at one point. What would happen if gambling was casually allowed? This incident clearly illustrates those consequences.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 17, 2024)