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Suspect in Sekisui House land scam recruited by former co-worker

The land plot at the center of the fraudulent land deal, a former site of an inn, is seen in the Nishigotanda district of Tokyo's Shinagawa Ward on Oct. 12, 2018. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- A member of a land fraud ring that caused losses of some 6.3 billion yen for housing giant Sekisui House Ltd. was recruited through a former co-worker, people close to the investigation have told the Mainichi Shimbun.

According to the people, 63-year-old Masami Haketa was recruited to join the scam group by 57-year-old Miyuki Takei, a co-worker at the life insurance company where Haketa worked in sales. Both Haketa and Takei have been arrested on suspicion of fraud and other charges.

Haketa posed as the owner of a property in the Nishigotanda district of Shinagawa Ward to swindle billions of yen from Sekisui House. The two are among the 15 suspects who have been arrested for fraud and other charges so far in the case. The detention period for Haketa and seven others expires Dec. 17.

Takei was acquainted with Koko Akiba, 74, who has been dubbed the "recruiter of impersonators" among the property fraudsters known as "jimen-shi" -- fraudsters who sell other people's land without the owners' consent, the people close to the probe said.

Investigators believe that Akiba, who has also been arrested on a fraud and other charges, learned of Haketa through Takei and set her eyes on her since Haketa was similar in age and appearance to the actual owner of the plot of land, they added.

Land scammers are said to repeat a cycle of getting together when fraud projects came up, and dispersing once they were completed. According to the people familiar with the case, Mike Uchida, who is known as a "big-time real estate scammer" and has been arrested for producing counterfeit private documents, was the mastermind behind the case. He found the property where the former inn was located, and devised the plan to defraud Sekisui House.

Yoshio Doi, a 63-year-old company executive who has been arrested on the same charges as Uchida, is believed to have been one of the leaders in the scam, divvying up the money the group obtained and overseeing the entire operation. A company employee formerly known as Misao Koyama, 59, who is currently out of the country and is on an international wanted list for similar charges, posed as a financial consultant for the so-called owner of the property, and engaged in sales negotiations with Sekisui House.

The eight suspects whose detention periods expire Dec. 17 are charged with posing as the owner of the property of a former inn, signing a sales contract with Sekisui House, and defrauding the housing company of some 6.3 billion yen between March and June of last year.

Haketa has admitted to the charges, while the other seven suspects are denying them.

(Japanese original by Tomoko Igarashi and Kazuki Sakuma, City News Department)

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