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As a gambler, Mathew Bowyer bet big, often unsuccessfully, listing nearly half a million dollars in losses to two Las Vegas casinos in his 2011 bankruptcy.

As bookmaker, the Orange County man wagered that a client’s relationship with baseball phenom Shohei Ohtani would pay off by boosting Bowyer’s reputation in the gambling world.

Bowyer, who turns 49 next week, instead, ended up at the center of an international scandal over allegations by the Japanese-speaking Ohtani that a trusted friend and interpreter stole more than $4 million from Ohtani to pay down bets made with Bowyer.

A source associated with Bowyer said the now-fired interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, still has unpaid gambling debts, but would not say how much is owed.

Bowyer, reached by phone Wednesday, declined comment.

Ohtani spent six years with the Los Angeles Angels before signing the richest contract in sports history with the Los Angeles Dodgers — $700 million over 10 years — in the offseason. And Mizuhara, who lives in Diamond Bar and graduated from Diamond Bar High School, has been at his side nearly all the way.

Also see: Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter gets cheers from his old school, Diamond Bar High

According to ESPN, wire transfers from Ohtani’s bank account were made to an associate of Bowyer purportedly to pay down Mizuhara’s gambling debt. Mizuhara initially told ESPN that Ohtani knew of the payments, but then recanted in a later interview. Ohtani’s attorneys then issued a statement that he was the victim of a “massive theft” and said they were reporting it to “authorities.”

Major League Baseball is conducting its own investigation into the gambling allegations involving Mizuhara.

Worn many hats

Square-jawed and unshaven, Bowyer has worn many hats over the years: bookie, former commodities trader, owner of a failed pest control business and operator of a Brazilian jujitsu studio called RYSK, where he is a white belt.

But it is his role in the Ohtani scandal that brought an unwelcome horde of reporters to his doorstep in San Juan Capistrano one recent morning and put a global spotlight on a federal investigation by the IRS, FBI and Homeland Security into Bowyer and illegal sports betting. California is one of only 12 states where sports betting is unlawful.

Bowyer’s relationship with Mizuhara began in 2021, when they met through a mutual friend in San Diego after a Padres game, the source said. They were in a hotel lobby and Mizuhara was placing a bet on his cellphone with another bookie.

The friend overheard Mizuhara, walked over and said, “This is the guy you need to be betting with,” and introduced him to Bowyer, according to the source.

ESPN has reported that Mizuhara and Bowyer met in 2021 at a San Diego poker game.

At first, Mizuhara started betting small on international soccer, basketball and football — never baseball. As the losses grew, so did the bets. But Mizuhara regularly paid his losses, a source said.

‘Never spoke with Ohtani’

“Mr. Bowyer never spoke with Ohtani. The only person he ever dealt with was Mr. Mizuhara,” said Bowyer’s attorney, Diane Bass, adding that they communicated through texts or verbally.

But Bowyer didn’t mind if people thought he was taking bets for Ohtani.

“When (Bowyer) heard Ohtani’s name was on one of the wire transfers for Mizuhara’s debt, he didn’t shy away from boasting Ohtani was his client because he thought it would bring him more business,” the source said.

As part of the investigation, Bowyer’s 4,500-square-foot home not far from Mission San Juan Capistrano was raided by federal agents in October. No charges have been filed.

Filed for bankruptcy in 2011

Bowyer’s relationship with gambling dates back before 2011, when he filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. At the time he was a divorced father of four earning $65,652 a year working for a trading company, according to federal court records. He reported gambling losses totaling $425,000 in 2010 and 2011 to the Cosmopolitan and Aria casinos in Las Vegas.

Bowyer also had taken a total of $524,000 in personal loans from three people, two of them registered real estate agents in Orange County, contributing to $2 million in liabilities with only $879,000 in assets — mostly for his then-home in Aliso Viejo, bankruptcy documents show.

In 2019, Bowyer formed Pick Enterprises, a Nevada-based corporation that lost its right to do business in California for failure to meet tax requirements, according to the California secretary of state’s website.

The investigation into Bowyer is linked to the probe into Wayne Nix, a former minor league pitcher and bookmaker whose clients included ex-Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig. Nix pleaded guilty to conspiracy to operate an illegal sports gambling business in 2022. There have been nearly a dozen other indictments, said the Washington Post.

Heavy debts at Las Vegas casinos

Court records show Bowyer had trouble with some casinos, which sued him for not paying his marker or bouncing a check, the Post reported.

The Aria casino filed a $250,000 suit against him for an allegedly bounced check, with the litigation ultimately being dismissed, the Post said.

The Post and the Los Angeles Times reported Bowyer was given $1.2 million in credit by Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut after his bankruptcy, but he failed to pay back the marker. The casino sued him in tribal court, according to the Post, and was still trying to collect on the debt in Orange County Superior Court in 2023.

A source close to Bowyer said he was initially banned by some Las Vegas casinos, and now with the federal investigation is unwelcome at all casinos. He currently is writing an autobiography.

Staff writer Destiny Torres contributed to this report.

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