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Elaborate fraud utilized fake profile of ex-AKB48 member Atsuko Maeda

Shukan Bunshun June 27

In early June, Tokyo Metropolitan Police announced the crackdown on Wing Net, a company that allegedly swindled customers by using social-networking services to create fake profiles of celebrities, including boy band Exile and idol group AKB48.

Police arrested the company’s 34-year-old executive officer, Takahiro Yamanaka, and eight other employees on fraud charges.

Shukan Bunshun (June 27) says that the scam was highly crafty and lucrative.

Wing Net, which is located in Shinjuku Ward, allegedly accessed SNS platforms like Facebook and Line to create fabricated profiles of entertainers. Fans were then charged fees to engage in communication through the company’s 22 deai-kei “encounter” matchmaking sites.

“Yamanaka and the other suspects employed approximately 170 part-time employees to use 50 computers,” says an investigator on the case. “They sent mails from the fabricated profiles of members of AKB48 and Exile and Satoshi Ohno of boy group Arashi and idol Jun Matsumoto.”

The operation ran 24 hours a day. “They used a manual to compose the mails,” continues the insider. “Before sending, the schedule of the each entertainer was confirmed” — ostensibly to eliminate conflicting information — “and the contents of the message viewed by a division chief.”

Victims were encouraged to engage in communication via messages left on SNS sites: “Don’t you want to engage in a one-to-one chat?” To read a direct mail from a celebrity required 200 yen, to send one required 300 yen.

In April and May of last year, a 40-year-old man from Saitama Prefecture was charged 1.37 million yen to exchange between 20 and 30 messages daily with the fake profile of ex-AKB48 member Atsuko Maeda.

Wing Net has 60,000 male and 310,000 female users on its books. Between February of 2010 and June of last year, the company collected 11.6 billion yen in revenue, the majority of which, investigators believe, came through fraudulent behavior.

An arrest warrant was also issued for the 40-year-old president of the firm. In 2009, he was indicted on charges of tax evasion for not disclosing 100 million yen income generated from a different company.

Shukan Bunshun says many of the victims were middle-aged. The possibility of eventually meeting a celebrity was just too great to see that they were being swindled. “There were a lot of people who were told to stop by their families but continued anyway,” says the investigator.

Source: “Geinojin narisumashi meeru sagi 116okuen arakaseki akuratsu teguchi,” Shukan Bunshun (June 27)