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Technically, that was, like, a crime

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The criminal complaint filed today in the Shohei Ohtani gambling case looks like very good news for the sport’s biggest star. The details are a glimpse into the wild world of compulsive gambling:

Text messages showed that Mizuhara began gambling with a bookmaker in September 2021 and began losing “substantial sums of money” later that year. In all, the complaint states, Mizuhara averaged 25 bets per day, ranging from $10 to $160,000 per bet, between December 2021 and this January — some 19,000 [!!!] bets in all. Mizuhara’s betting records, according to a spreadsheet obtained by authorities, reflected total winnings of $142 million and total losses of $183 million during this span, “leaving a total net balance of negative $40,678,436.”

While the bookmaker is not named in the complaint, his role and detail match that of Mathew Bowyer. Bank records also show that the phone number and email address on Ohtani’s account were changed to those associated with Mizuhara in late 2021. Prosecutors said that winnings were deposited in Mizuhara’s account, not Ohtani’s.

Bowyer’s attorney, Diane Bass, declined to comment. The Dodgers, who fired Mizuhara on March 20, also declined to comment. MLB did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to the affidavit, Mizuhara repeatedly texted the bookmaker asking for more credit. On Nov. 14, 2022, he wrote, “I’m terrible at this sport betting thing huh? Lol . . . Any chance u can bump me again?? As you know, you don’t have to worry about me not paying!!”

Investigators also relied on recorded phone calls from the bank in which Mizuhara falsely identified himself as Ohtani to “trick and deceive” bank employees into authorizing the transfers. The complaint outlined one specific transfer on June 20, 2023, of $500,000 to an associate of a bookmaker.

Text messages from the filing show that around November 2023, the relationship between Mizuhara and the bookmaker changed. On Nov. 17, the bookmaker texted: “I don’t know why you’re not returning my calls. I’m here in Newport Beach and I see [Ohtani] walking his dog. I’m just gonna go up and talk to him and ask how I can get in touch with you since you’re not responding? Please call me back immediately.”

There is no indication in the complaint that anyone connected with the bookmaker ever made contact with Ohtani. Bass has said Bowyer had no contact with Ohtani.

On March 20, 2024, after news broke that at least $4.5 million was transmitted from Ohtani’s account to Bowyer’s operation, Mizuhara texted the bookmaker asking if he’d seen the media reports. The bookmaker replied, “Yes, but that’s all bulls—. Obviously you didn’t steal from him. I understand it’s a cover job I totally get it.”

Mizuhara replied, “Technically I did steal from him. It’s all over for me.”

Authorities said Mizuhara never bet on baseball, which Mizuhara previously told ESPN.

Authorities reviewed a large number of texts between Mizuhara and Ohtani and never found any mention of gambling, so this really does look as if Ohtani was a hapless victim of a crooked employee.

Relatedly, a friend of mine saw some stats on spending via mobile apps, and says they show that 64% of the spending comes from 1% of the users, and 88% comes from the top 6%.

There’s a larger issue here regarding how contemporary information technology is enabling all kinds of compulsive behavior in extremely profitable and socially destructive ways, but that’s a topic for another post.

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