Jury convicts Vegas man in $1.5B Japan-US investment scheme

A 79-year-old former head of a Las Vegas and Tokyo investment firm is facing the rest of his life in a U.S. prison after a jury in Nevada found him guilty of bilking thousands of Japanese victims in what prosecutors called a $1.5 billion international Ponzi scheme.

Edwin Fujinaga is due for sentencing March 8 following his conviction Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas on all 20 counts of mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering he faced.

Interim U.S. Attorney Dayle Elieson said jurors took less than three hours to reach their verdict following a five-week trial.

Prosecutors can seek up to 370 years in prison and a $5 million fine, and will ask Chief U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro to order Fujinaga to surrender some $800 million, Elieson spokeswoman Trisha Young said Thursday.

Federal public defenders who represented Fujinaga didn't immediately respond to messages.

Fujinaga, the former president and chief executive of MRI International Inc., was accused of soliciting more than $1 billion in investments from 2000 to 2013 from more than 10,000 Japanese residents who wired funds from Japan to bank accounts in Las Vegas under Fujinaga's control.

Investors were told they were buying claims from a medical collection business.

Instead, Fujinaga was found guilty of using new investors' money to pay off previous investors and spending the rest on himself, including a Las Vegas golf course mansion, a private jet, luxury cars and real estate in California wine country, Beverly Hills and Hawaii.

Elieson said that when the Japanese government revoked MRI's license to market securities in April 2013, the firm owed investors more than $1.5 billion.