Shohei Ohtani 'grateful' for investigation into ex-interpreter: 'I'd like to focus on baseball'

Just hours after Shohei Ohtani’s ex-interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, surrendered to authorities Friday on charges that he stole more than $16 million from the Dodgers’ two-way star, Ohtani himself said he was ready to return to just focusing on baseball.

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

Ohtani’s comments Friday were the first he has made publicly regarding the allegations against Mizuhara since a news conference late last month, when Ohtani first accused his longtime friend and interpreter of secretly stealing money from one of his personal bank accounts to pay off gambling losses Mizuhara had accumulated with an alleged illegal bookmaker in Orange County.

On Friday, Ohtani declined to answer further questions from a Times reporter about the situation.

The 29-year-old slugger was in the Dodgers’ lineup for Friday night’s game, serving as the designated hitter from his customary No. 2 spot in the batting order.

Ohtani’s initial story — that he had no knowledge of the wire transfers Mizuhara made from his account, that he had never gambled on sports or through an illegal bookmaker, and that he was not aware of the scandal until a Dodgers’ clubhouse meeting after the team’s season-opening game in South Korea last month — was supported by a criminal complaint unveiled Thursday at a news conference by U.S. Atty. for the Central District of California E. Martin Estrada, who announced the charges against Mizuhara.

According to the complaint, Ohtani did not grant Mizuhara access to the account from which Mizuhara allegedly transferred more than $16 million to a bookmaker, nor did Ohtani realize the transfers had been made until Mizuhara told him following the season-opening game in South Korea.

The complaint said that investigators “did not find any evidence to suggest that [Ohtani] was aware of, or involved in, Mizuhara’s illegal gambling activity or payment of those debts,” after reviewing Ohtani’s cellphone.

The complaint also cited a text Mizuhara sent to the bookmaker after The Times first reported on the story March 20, in which Mizuhara admitted that “technically, I did steal from [Ohtani].”

“It’s all over for me,” Mizuhara said in that message.

Ohtani and the Dodgers are hopeful the situation is in the past for them, too, and that the distractions the scandal had created for him and the team will finally be resolved.

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