Two former executives of a Las Vegas investment company have been extradited from Japan in connection with a $1.5 billion Ponzi scheme that prosecutors called one of the largest financial crimes in U.S. history.
The father and son, Junzo Suzuki, 70, and Paul Suzuki, 40, were charged in a 2015 indictment with eight counts of mail fraud and nine counts of wire fraud. Japanese authorities arrested the Suzukis in January, and they were extradited to Las Vegas 0n Wednesday.
In November, a federal jury convicted Edwin Fujinaga, the 72-year-old former chief executive of MRI International, on eight counts of mail fraud, nine counts of wire fraud and three counts of money laundering.
Prosecutors said Fujinaga ran the enterprise that stole more than $1 billion from 10,000 victims, most of them Japanese. He was scheduled to be sentenced last week, but the hearing was postponed after Fujinaga said he was suffering from vertigo. Prosecutors were expected to ask a judge to sentence him to 50 years behind bars.
“The nature and circumstances of the offense are appalling,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Lopez wrote in a sentencing memo. “Fujinaga perpetrated one of the largest Ponzi schemes in U.S. history. Year after year, he stole and misused hundreds of millions of dollars from ordinary investors, knowing that he would never be able pay them back.”
Junzo Suzuki previously was executive vice president for Asia Pacific of MRI International, headquartered in Las Vegas with an office in Japan. Paul Suzuki previously was the company’s general manager for Japan operations, based in Tokyo. The two are due back in federal court in Las Vegas next week, when a judge is expected to decide whether they should be free while awaiting trial.
The two men pleaded not guilty to the charges on Thursday.
MRI purported to purchase accounts receivable from medical providers at a discount, and then attempted to recover the entire amount, or at least more than the discounted amount, from the debtor, according to charging documents.
From at least 2009 to 2013, prosecutors said, Fujinaga and the Suzukis promised investors a series of interest payments that were never delivered.
Prosecutors called MRI a Ponzi scheme, saying the defendants used new investors’ money to pay prior investors’ maturing investments. They also used the cash to live lavish lifestyles, paying for gambling, private jets, property and luxury vehicles.