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As a formality, ex-interpreter for Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani pleads not guilty

The former interpreter for Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani pleaded not guilty Tuesday to bank and tax fraud, a formality ahead of a plea deal he's negotiated with federal prosecutors in a wide-ranging sports betting case.

Prosecutors say Ippei Mizuhara stole nearly $17 million US from Ohtani to pay off sports gambling debts during a years-long scheme, at times impersonating Ohtani to bankers, and exploited his personal and professional relationship with the two-way player. Mizuhara signed a plea agreement that detailed the allegations on May 5, and prosecutors announced it several days later.

During his arraignment Tuesday in federal court in Los Angeles, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jean P. Rosenbluth asked Mizuhara to enter a plea to one count of bank fraud and one count of subscribing to a false tax return. The expected not-guilty plea was a procedural step as the case moves forward, even though he has already agreed to the plea deal.

Defence attorney Michael G. Freedman said Mizuhara planned to plead guilty in the future. In the hallway before the hearing, Freedman said they would not comment Tuesday.

Members of the media were not allowed inside the main courtroom and instead were seated in an audio-only overflow room. The Associated Press and other outlets filed a complaint with the court clerk and chief district judge.

Mizuhara only spoke to answer the judge's questions, with responses like "yes, ma'am" when asked whether he understood the proceedings.

WATCH | Ohtani addresses gambling scandal:

Mizuhara's plea agreement says he will be required to pay Ohtani restitution that could total nearly $17 million, as well as more than $1 million to the IRS. Those amounts could change prior to sentencing. The bank fraud