Dodgers' Shohei Ohtani's reps shut down ESPN's inquiries over theft allegations - Sport News

Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani’s reps shut down ESPN’s inquiries over theft allegations

Dodgers' Shohei Ohtani's reps shut down ESPN's inquiries over theft  allegations

ESPN has reported Los Angeles Dodgers superstar Shohei Ohtani’s representatives have refused to say which authorities they claim to have contacted to report allegations of theft. Ohtani and Ippei Mizuhara, his former interpreter, have been at the center of MLB’s biggest news story for the past week.

In the first statement that includes the theft allegations, Ohtani’s reps said they were “turning the matter over to the authorities.” ESPN reported, though, that Ohtani or his representatives have not given proof of this.

“When asked Tuesday to provide proof that Ohtani or his representatives have reported the theft to an investigating agency, a spokesperson for Ohtani declined to comment,” ESPN’s Tisha Thompson and Paula Lavigne wrote. “ESPN received no confirmation from any of the likely local, state or federal agencies that could investigate allegations of theft that they received a report from Ohtani’s camp.”

Thompson and Lavigne did report, however, that the Department of Homeland Security and the IRS were collaborating to investigate Mizuhara in some manner.

“Homeland Security Investigations Los Angeles and IRS Criminal Investigation Los Angeles Field Office are conducting a joint federal investigation into the matter,” a spokesperson told ESPN.

Shohei Ohtani interpreter scandal, explained

Dodgers DH Shohei Ohtani hires Will Ireton amid issues with Matthew Bowyer and Ippei Mizuhara

Ohtani fired Mizuhara on March 20 after the MLB star’s lawyers claimed he was “the victim of a massive theft.” Reporters had begun to ask questions regarding at least $4.5 million in wire transfers from Ohtani’s bank account to an illegal bookmaking operation based out of Southern California. Ohtani’s spokesman initially told ESPN that Ohtani transferred the money to wipe out Mizuhara’s gambling debt until Mizuhara spoke to ESPN for 90 minutes, after which time Ohtani’s representatives denied Mizuhara’s account.

Ohtani’s true involvement in this series of events remains unclear; as MLB’s most popular star, however, there is palpable concern among fans and likely executives that the preeminent face of the league could be in serious trouble. MLB announced on March 22 that its Department of Investigations began an inquiry into the matter.

Ohtani became a star with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in his native Japan, displaying a rare ability to hit and pitch at a high level. He drew great interest from multiple MLB teams but ultimately decided to sign with the Los Angeles Angels before the 2018 season.

In six seasons with the Angels, Ohtani transformed into a superstar. He won two AL MVPs, was a three-time All-Star, and became one of the most popular athletes in America despite the Angels’ lack of team success.

This past offseason, Ohtani decided to leave the Angels in free agency, signing a historic 10-year, $700 million contract with the Dodgers.  As his longtime interpreter, Mizuhara had been by his side every step of the way of his career, including at Ohtani’s Dodgers debut in Seoul as part of the MLB Seoul Series. Mizuhara and Ohtani could be seen together in the dugout of the Dodgers’ game against the San Diego Padres just hours before ESPN’s story broke and Ohtani fired Mizuhara.

Ohtani held a press conference Monday, during which he denied any sports betting or paying off a bookmaker. He instead again claimed Mizuhara had stolen millions of dollars from him and that he did not know about the alleged theft until after his Dodgers debut.

“I’m very saddened and shocked that someone who I’ve trusted has done this,” Ohtani said via a translation by Dodgers employee Will Ireton.

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