A Nevada judge on Thursday sentenced a former investment company executive to 50 years behind bars "for his role in a $1.5 billion Ponzi scheme” that affected more than 10,000 Japanese people, officials said.
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In addition to prison time, Edwin Fujinaga, 72 – who is the former president and CEO of MRI International Inc. – was ordered to pay $1,129,409,449 in restitution and $813,297,912.65 in forfeiture by Chief Judge Gloria Navarro, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said in a news release.
MRI International is “a purported investment company and medical collections business” that operates in both Las Vegas and Tokyo, according to officials.
Fujinaga was found guilty in November of 20 counts of mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering, the DOJ said. His conviction stemmed from the scheme in which he "fraudulently solicited over $1 billion in investments" in his company from thousands of Japanese residents, according to the DOJ, citing trial evidence.
“Fujinaga approved and disseminated marketing materials that promised investors that their funds would only be used for purchasing medical claims and that an escrow agent would ensure that MRI used investor funds for only that purpose,” the news release said.
Most of the money Fujinaga received actually went toward paying old investors and for expensive purchases, such as real estate and cars, officials said. The scheme spanned more than a decade, from 2000 to roughly 2013, according to the DOJ.
During court on Thursday, Navarro acknowledged the government could only document $813 million in cash investments in the case because MRI company books were incomplete before 2009, according to The Associated Press. But she agreed with prosecutor William Johnson, who said MRI had $1.56 billion in outstanding investments when the scheme collapsed.
Fujinaga offered an apology “to all the people of Japan for all the chaos I caused” and conceded that he “made mistakes.” But the judge condemned his apology, labeling it as being “offensive.”
"It's ridiculous for you to try to say it was all a mistake," Navarro said. "I find it pretty offensive, and I'm sure it's offensive to victims as well."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.