Father, son guilty in $1.5 billion Las Vegas ‘Ponzi’ case

LAS VEGAS, Nevada: Two former investment executives from Japan, Junzo Suzuki and his son, Paul Suzuki, have pleaded guilty in Las Vegas to wire fraud, as part of a $1.5 billion international Ponzi scheme which involved 10,000 victims in the U.S. and abroad.

Each man faces five years in federal prison and three years of supervised release, according to court records.

Their pleas to one count of wire fraud avoided a trial that had been set to begin next month on 15 federal fraud charges. The father and son remain free under federal supervision, pending sentencing May 11.

Junzo and Paul Suzuki were arrested in Japan in January 2019, two months after a federal jury in Las Vegas found their co-defendant, Edwin Fujinaga, guilty of 20 counts of mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering.

Fujinaga, now 75, is serving a 50-year U.S. prison sentence.

According to prosecutors, from 2009 to early 2013 the three deceived thousands of Japanese investors who believed they were buying claims from a medical collection business, according to court documents.

Fujinaga ran the Las Vegas operation. He was found guilty of using new investors’ money to pay off previous investors, and spending the rest on himself, including the purchase of a Las Vegas golf course mansion, a private jet, luxury cars, and real estate in California wine country, Beverly Hills and Hawaii.

Junzo was MRI International’s executive vice president, prosecutors said, and Paul managed the Tokyo operations.

U.S. attorneys have compared the case with the Ponzi scheme convictions of Bernard Madoff in 2009 in New York, Allen Stanford in Houston in 2012, and Scott Rothstein in 2010 in Miami.

Prosecutors said that when the Japanese government revoked MRI’s license to market securities in April 2013, the firm owed investors more than $1.5 billion.

The U.S. Department of Justice has offered a website to provide information to victims of the MRI International scheme.

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