Ponzi Came to $1.5 Billion, Uncle Sam Says

LAS VEGAS (CN) – Federal prosecutors Wednesday charged a Las Vegas man and two Japanese citizens with running a $1.5 billion Ponzi scheme that defrauded thousands of Japanese citizens.
     Charges with eight counts of mail fraud and nine counts of wire fraud were Edwin Fujinaga, 68, of Las Vegas; Junzo Suzuki, 66; and Paul Suzuki, 36, both of Tokyo. Fujinaga also is charged with three counts of money laundering.
     Fujinaga and the Suzukis owe thousands of investors more than $1.5 billion for money they fraudulently solicited from 2009 to 2013, U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden said in a statement.
     Fujinaga was president and CEO of Las Vegas-based MRI International. Junzo Suzuki was MRI’s executive vice president for Asia Pacific, and Paul Suzuki was the company’s general manager for Japan operations. MRI claimed it bought accounts receivable at a discount from medical providers and then recovered more than the discounted amount from the debtors.
     Fujinaga and the Suzukis promised investors a series of interest payments that would accrue over the life of the investment and would be paid out along with the face value when the investment concluded. But it was a Ponzi scheme, using new money to pay off old investors, from which the defendants skimmed money to pay themselves commissions, subsidize their gambling, take trips and so on, prosecutors say.
     The SEC sued MRI, Fujinaga and the Suzukis in 2013 and in February this year won a $604 million judgment for what then was described as an $800 million Ponzi scheme .

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