Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani said Monday he is not involved in gambling and never made payments to an alleged illegal bookmaker in California.

Ohtani spoke to the media for the first time since illegal gambling and theft allegations against his longtime interpreter Ippei Mizuhara emerged last week. Without taking questions from reporters at Dodger Stadium, Ohtani read a prepared statement in Japanese quickly for over 10 minutes.

Photo show Shohei Ohtani making a statement at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on March 25, 2024. (Photo courtesy of Dodgers/Jon SooHoo)(Kyodo)

Mizuhara was fired by the Dodgers during the team's season-opening trip to Seoul after representatives of Ohtani accused the 39-year-old interpreter of engaging in a "massive theft" of the player's funds to place bets with the bookmaker, who is the target of a federal investigation.

"I never bet on baseball or any other sport and have never asked somebody to do it on my behalf. I have never used a bookmaker to bet on sports," Ohtani said. "He stole money from my account and told lies to everyone."

"I'm devastated after finding out what's been done by someone I trusted."

Sports gambling is allowed in around 40 states but is illegal in California.

Ohtani said he learned of what Mizuhara had done when the interpreter confessed that he is a gambling addict during a team meeting after last Wednesday's season opener against the San Diego Padres.

"I didn't have someone to interpret for me when he spoke, but I sensed something was wrong from his words," Ohtani said. "And then I had a one-on-one chat with him at a hotel after the game and found out for the first time that he had accessed my account without permission and sent money to the bookmaker."

"It's hard to describe how I spent the past week. The season is starting in full swing (after the first two games in South Korea), so I'll let my representatives handle the matter while fully cooperating with police investigations."

Ohtani, however, provided no details regarding how Mizuhara stole the money. Major League Baseball and the Internal Revenue Service have launched investigations into the gambling scandal.

The 29-year-old Ohtani also said Mizuhara did not let him know after being contacted by the media about the allegations.

Last week, ESPN reported the Dodgers' firing of the interpreter, saying "questions surrounding at least $4.5 million in wire transfers sent from Ohtani's bank account to a bookmaking operation set off a series of events."

"Initially, a spokesman for Ohtani told ESPN the slugger had transferred the funds to cover Mizuhara's gambling debt," the sports network said. "The spokesman presented Mizuhara to ESPN for a 90-minute interview Tuesday night, during which Mizuhara laid out his account in great detail."

"However, as ESPN prepared to publish the story Wednesday, the spokesman disavowed Mizuhara's account and said Ohtani's lawyers would issue a statement."

A monitor at Dodger Stadium in California shows Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani holding a press conference on March 25, 2024, following illegal gambling and theft allegations against his longtime interpreter Ippei Mizuhara.  (Kyodo)

The statement from Berk Brettler LLP read that in the course of responding to recent media inquiries, we discovered that Shohei has been the victim of a massive theft, and we are turning the matter over to the authorities.

"Ippei didn't tell me anything while saying to everyone else that he had paid to cover a friend's debt," Ohtani said. "He then said during the next day's inquiries that it was his debt and covered by me, according to my agent. Those were all lies."

Ohtani signed a record $700 million, 10-year contract with the Dodgers in the offseason after winning two American League MVP Awards during his six-year stint with the Los Angeles Angels.

The two-way player is expected to only hit this season after having elbow surgery last September.

The Dodgers are scheduled to play their home opener Thursday against the St. Louis Cardinals after the three-game exhibition Freeway Series against the Angels.

Journalists watch a monitor at Dodger Stadium in California on March 25, 2024, showing Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani holding a press conference ahead of a spring training game, following illegal gambling and theft allegations against his longtime interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. (Kyodo) 

Related coverage:

Baseball:Shohei Ohtani to address former interpreter's gambling allegations

Baseball: MLB begins investigating scandal involving Ohtani, aide

IRS investigating fired interpreter Mizuhara: report