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Japan tsunami loan scam alleged

TOKYO, Dec. 4 (UPI) -- Japanese authorities allege crime syndicate members got their hands on interest-free loan money meant for the country's earthquake and tsunami disaster victims.

So far, four alleged organized crime members have been arrested on suspicion of fraud in a nearly half-million-dollar scheme investigators suspect involved 260 Yakuza, as the mafia associates are known in Japan, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday.

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Under the government loan program initiated after the catastrophic March 11 quake and tsunami, each affected household is eligible for a no-interest loan of up to $2,500. But authorities say they have determined at least dozens of the thousands of loans issued have gone to gangsters.

The Times said police also suspect crime syndicates have exploited public donations to disaster victims and the government's financial aid for those who lost their homes.

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