Shohei Ohtani investigation: MLB begins formal probe into gambling scandal, Dodgers star can still play

 Major League Baseball announced on Friday that it had begun an investigation into Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani and the alleged “massive theft” committed by his former player, Ibe Mizuhara. MLB has not placed Ohtani on administrative leave and he remains an active player.

“Major League Baseball has been collecting information since we learned of the allegations regarding Shohei Ohtani and Ibe Mizuhari through the media,” MLB said in a statement. “Earlier today, our Department of Investigation (DOI) began the formal investigation process into this matter.”

Ohtani, Mizuhara and the Dodgers were in Seoul, South Korea for Seoul's two-game series with the San Diego Padres when the story broke on March 19. Mizuhara was fired immediately.

Mizuhara allegedly received more than $4.5 million from Ohtani through a series of bank transfers. The money was used to cover gambling debts and was sent to the illegal betting house, Matthew Boyer, in California. Boyer is under federal investigation and Ohtani's name came up in the matter while he was being investigated by the Los Angeles Times.

"Mr. Boyer has had no contact with Mr. Ohtani," Boyer's attorney, Diane Bass, told CBS Sports.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles declined to comment when contacted by CBS Sports.

Initially, Mizuhara said Ohtani paid his gambling debts at his request. Mizuhara changed his story soon after and said Ohtani had no knowledge of the payments. Ohtani's lawyers discovered the missing money and notified the authorities.

“In response to recent media inquiries, we have discovered that Shohei was the victim of a massive theft and we are referring the matter to the authorities,” a spokesperson for the Burke Brettler law firm told CBS Sports in a statement in March. twenty.

Players and employees of MLB teams can legally bet on sports other than baseball and softball; However, Rule 21(f) expressly prohibits association with illegal betting houses regardless of the betting activity. Any person who violates Rule 21(f) “is subject to such penalty as the Commissioner deems appropriate in light of the facts and circumstances of the conduct.”

Sports betting is illegal in California.

Mizuhara says he bets on international soccer, as well as the NBA, NFL, and college basketball, but never on baseball. He also says he believes the bets he made with Boyer were legal.

Mizuhara and Ohtani first met in 2013, five years before Ohtani moved from Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball team to Major League Baseball. Mizuhara was Ohtani's translator during his time with the Los Angeles Angels and joined the Dodgers after Ohtani signed with the club last offseason. Here is more information about Mizuhara.

Ohtani, 29, signed a record 10-year, $700 million contract with the Dodgers. The deal includes significant deferrals: Ohtani will be paid only $2 million annually between 2024 and 2033, and the rest will be paid in annual installments of $68 million between 2034 and 2043. He reportedly earns more than $50 million annually from sponsorships.

CBS Sports will update this story as more information becomes available.