Investment company executives indicted in $1.5B Las Vegas Ponzi scheme

By Amy R. Connolly  |  July 9, 2015 at 12:09 PM
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LAS VEGAS, July 9 (UPI) -- Three top executives of a Las Vegas-based investment firm were indicted for their role in an alleged $1.5 billion Ponzi fraud scheme that targeted thousands of Japanese investors.

Edwin Fujinaga, 68, president of MRI International Inc.; Junzo Suzuki, 66, the company's vice president for Asia Pacific; and his son Paul Suzuki, 36, general manager for Japan operations, each were charged with eight counts of mail fraud and nine counts of wire fraud. Fujinaga also was charged with three counts of money laundering.

Prosecutors said the men are accused of using a Nevada corporation to scheme money by telling thousands of overseas investors their investments would be safely held and managed by an independent, third-party escrow agent.

"This prosecution shows that the Criminal Division will pursue not only those who victimize American citizens, but also those who use the U.S. as a home base to defraud victims abroad," Assistant U.S. Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said.

The indictment alleges from at least 2009 to 2013, MRI used money from new investors to pay back earlier investors. They promised investors a series of interest payments that would accrue over the life of the investment, the indictment alleges. Instead, the men are alleged to have used investor funds to pay themselves sales commissions, subsidize gambling habits and travel by private jet.

The largest Ponzi-style fraud in U.S. history involved New York financier Bernard Madoff, who was sentenced to 150 years in prison in a scheme that bilked investors of an estimated $20 billion.

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