April 18, 2019 / 7:47 PM / a month ago

Japan extradites father, son charged by U.S. in $1.5 billion Ponzi scheme

(Reuters) - Japan has extradited a father and son to the United States to face charges in Las Vegas over their alleged roles in a $1.5 billion Ponzi scheme that bilked thousands of Japanese residents.

The U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday announced the extradition of Junzo Suzuki and Paul Suzuki five months after the conviction of Edwin Fujinaga, the former chief executive of MRI International Inc and accused ringleader of the scheme.

Junzo Suzuki, 70, and Paul Suzuki, 40, were each charged in July 2015 with 17 mail and wire fraud counts related to MRI, where they worked as Asia-Pacific executive vice president and general manager for Japan operations, respectively.

Prosecutors said the defendants solicited more than $1.5 billion, mainly from Japanese residents, from 2009 to 2013 by promising to buy accounts receivable from medical companies at a discount and recoup the full value later from insurers.

Instead, the defendants allegedly used new investor money to repay earlier investors, and diverted some money to award themselves sales commissions, subsidize gambling habits, and pay for private jet travel.

Accounts receivable are money owed for goods or services that were already delivered.

Junzo Suzuki is a Japanese citizen, while Paul Suzuki is a dual Japanese-U.S. citizen, according to the indictment.

Both were expected to appear on Thursday in Las Vegas federal court. Their lawyers could not immediately be identified.

Fujinaga was convicted last Nov. 27 on all 20 counts he faced after a four-week trial, and faces a May 23 sentencing.

The cases are U.S. v. Fujinaga et al, U.S. District Court, District of Nevada, No. 15-cr-00198.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler

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