TOKYO (TR) – As a part of a crackdown on a worsening problem, Tokyo Metropolitan Police have arrested 16 persons who are suspected of partaking in a scam that lured men met online to bars before presenting them with excessive bills, reports TV Asahi (April 6).
Over a 13-month period ending this past February, Yukiya Kinoshita, 28, and the other 15 suspects allegedly presented five men, aged in their 20s to 30s, with inflated bills of up to 330,000 yen at bars in the Kabukicho red-light district in Shinjuku Ward.
Police did not reveal whether any of the suspects admit to violating the law prohibiting bottakuri, or bill padding.
According to police, the scam begins with male members of the ring posing as women on the apps. After bringing the victims to Kabukicho, female cohorts offer them all-you-can-drink deals for 5,000 yen at various establishments. The victims are later presented with bills that far exceed the offered amount.
Police added that the most any one of the five victims actually paid to the suspects was 225,000 yen. Menus clearly highlighted the all-you-can-drink deal. But what wasn’t made evident was that the victims had to cover all of the drinks consumed on the premises — even those by the bar’s staff. In one case, the bill was inflated by the suspects through 80 separate drinks added to the initial offer.
After presenting the bills to the victims, most could not pay. The suspects then accompanied them to convenience store ATMs so that they could withdraw cash. Those who did not pay the full amount had their insurance cards copied. The suspects also pestered the non-paying victims at their residences.
Incidents of bottakuri have been on the rise. In January and February alone, there have been 110 complaints lodged with the Shinjuku Police Station. The damage to the victims in those incidents totaled 59 million yen.
“I did bad things to men”
To find out how the scam really unfolds, the Tokyo Shimbun (April 7) spoke to Miyu, a 22-year-female clerk at a cafe in Itabashi Ward. Miyu, who is using a pseudonym, used to lure male customers to a bar in Kabukicho.
“I worked with the goal of getting [a customer to run up bills of at least] 80,000 yen,” she says. She tells the paper that she can’t tell her parents or friends about her work at the time. “I did bad things to men,” she mutters.
Miyu got started in 2017, when she was in her second year of high school. “You can earn about 60,000 yen a day, so why not try this ruse?” a female friend asked her. “All you’ve got to do is take men to bars and make them drink.”
Much like the aforementioned suspects, she first pretended to be an available woman on a dating site. “Would you like to have a drink with someone?” she would write. The location would, of course, be in Kabukicho. She tells the paper that once a victim fell for the “I know a good place” line “the rest was easy.”
Before the arrival of the victim, the bar would have three or four men stationed outside as guards. After Miyu and the victim would start drinking, her fellow employees would suggest playing a game whereby the loser is tasked with drinking. Shotguns, priced at 2,000 yen each, would be downed swiftly. After an employee would urge him to order a pitcher, he, naturally, would oblige.
“It’s no use going to the police”
According to Miyu, 80 percent of the men would be unable to pay their bills. “The price is clearly stated, so it’s no use going to the police,” an employee would claim.
For Miyu, compensation was 30 percent of sales. For her biggest months, she received 600,000 yen. She believes she lured about 300 men to the bar.
Miyu was a part of a ring run by a dozen men, mostly in their 20s. The location of the bar changed every few months. In the summer of 2019, the group’s leader abruptly shut it down. “The number of arrests is increasing. So this m,onth is the last,” he told the members.
She has regrets, notably that some victims were forced to take on consumer loans to pay the inflated tabs. “I had a feeling that I was deceiving [the victims], but I thought I could make money easily, so I did it without thinking. Now I don’t want to do it anymore,” she says.