In a love hotel district of Tokyo, a minivan picks up a young woman. “What the hell were you doing?” she barks to the driver. “You are behind schedule.”
Kotaro Nishijima, which is not his real name, smiles in acknowledging his female passenger, who is young enough to be his daughter.
He currently earns 300,000 yen each month transporting gals in the deri heru trade (out-call sex) to their clients — a far cry from his days as head of a group of 80 that carried out frauds via phone communication (furikome sagi), which typically involves deceiving victims into wiring large sums of money to the group’s bank account.
With Tokyo cracking down on such activities, the 41-year-old tells Spa! (May 25), in an article that profiles a selection of former shammers, that in his previous line of work he reeled in 700 million yen a month.
“I used to say that I am making as much in one month as Ichiro makes in a year,” he remembers. “I didn’t purchase big-ticket items, like houses or cars, because if I were to get arrested they’d be used as evidence. Also, when one realizes he can buy anything, one loses appetite for it.”
Nishijima served two years following his arrest. Others, too, have recently been taken into custody, including one group head known as the “king,” who was served a 20-year term by the Tokyo District Court.
While one may assume that these aggressive moves by law enforcement are paying off, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department reported 155 cases of fraud in the month of April alone, the most in a single month since November of 2008.
“Those who engage in such fraud are either small-timers or those who are operating at the bottom rungs of organizations with a lot of money,” explains a member of an organized crime group.
Research dating back to 2006 reveals that there were six groups engaged in these scams. Four of them, including their subgroups, had withdrawn by 2007 and focused on other businesses.
“Those who couldn’t reinvent themselves at the time or switch over to different lines of work are going down pretty hard,” says the same gangster.
Nishijima reveals to Spa! the often splurged his gains inside kyabakura clubs. “My subordinates and myself would sit in one place for five minutes and then move onto the next,” he explains. “We were playing such foolish games. There was a time when we went to 20 of these places in one night, using around six million yen. One time we reserved the entire place and hid one million yen in cash for a treasure hunt. We also splashed Dom Pérignon Rosé on the waiters.
“We wound up buying one kyabakura joint specifically for money laundering,” he continues. “I managed the place but concealed my ownership, and since the money I used there would be coming back to me I appeared to be a very affluent person. The girls thought I was rich, and I was banging many of them. Personnel costs, however, were more than I had expected, and the money laundering angle didn’t really work out as expected.”
Nishijima eventually became a high-profile person, which led to an attack by thieves. “I woke up one night in severe pain. Masked men had beaten me up bad and I passed out. I found that 200 million yen hidden under floor boards had been taken. I knew this was done by a former subordinate. When groups dissolve, people can get physical to find cash.”
He just took the hit as he was afraid of arrest if her reported it to the police. Nonetheless, the group did get busted later on. But since his role as a senior member was not proved, he only had to serve two years.
After his release, he used 100 million yen that he had been hiding to open a hamburger shop, but that failed and he was left with no money.
“I dream those days, when I was playing at the kyabakura,” says Nishijima who nowadays hits a cheap izakaya two or three times a month. “But then I wake up to realize that I live in a six-tatami-mat room. It makes me really sad.” (K.N.)
Source: “Furikome sagi tachino awarena batsuro” Spa! (May 25, pages 28-29)