The Yomiuri Shimbun,YOKOHAMA–
A Kanagawa prefectural police superintendent suspected of involvement in a fraudulent scheme to con people with spiritual claims is believed to have used his name card to convince a businessman into handing over large sums of cash to a “healing salon,” the police said Saturday.
Sumio Yoshida, who was removed from his position as head of the police force’s security division Thursday, also allegedly drove the man to and from the Vivid Tokyo Aoyama Salon in Akasaka, Minato Ward, Tokyo, on a number of occasions.
The 44-year-old company executive from Yokohama was said to be initially hesitant to use the salon’s “special prayer” services, but felt reassured when he found out that a police officer was part of the salon’s operation, the police said.
The prefectural police suspect that Yoshida, 51, was deeply involved in the operation of the salon.
The police have searched the salon and the premises of Shinsekai Yugen Kaisha, a pseudoreligious entity based in Kai, Yamanashi Prefecture, that controls the salon.
They suspect the man was swindled out of about 4.9 million yen in May 2004 for the special prayers by a 44-year-old female company executive, who runs the salon.
According to the police, the man met Yoshida and received his name card in April 2004 after he took part in communal prayers at the salon at the invitation of an acquaintance.
The man had doubts about the credibility of the organization and was in two minds about becoming a member, but a person working at the salon told him a high-ranked police officer also was a member and introduced the man to Yoshida.
Yoshida handed the man one of the name cards he used as a senior police officer.
The man felt reassured and joined up, saying that “it must be credible if a police officer is a member.”
“Your company stands on land that was used as an execution ground during Japan’s Sengoku [Warring States] period [1467-1586],” the woman told the man at the salon later that month.
“Those executed have not attained nirvana, and the omens are bad for you.”
The woman is suspected of deceiving the man out of about 4.9 million yen in cash the following month for “special prayers” she proposed to improve the performance of his business.
As the man moved up “spiritually” from beginners level to advanced level, he was allegedly pressed to spend about 20 million yen on spiritual items such as an expensive “power license” protective charm.
Yoshida and the woman also drove the man to and from the salon on a number of occasions.
The superintendent also is believed to have been in charge of accounts at the salon and its second in command.
With Yoshida also persuading junior colleagues and subordinates from the prefectural police department to use the salon around 2004, some members of the salon reportedly said they felt “reassured by the presence of police officers.”
“I’ve caused trouble for the [police] organization,” Yoshida reportedly told investigators during questioning, but he denied allegations of fraud, saying he “did it to help troubled people.”
“The Aum Supreme Truth cult also made police officers and Self-Defense Forces personnel join,” said Masaki Kito, a lawyer who is a member of a defense council for victims of crime.
“It’s possible a police officer was targeted this time, too.”
Academy graduates targeted
The Kanagawa prefectural police found that Yoshida lured people into joining fictitious investment schemes at gatherings of a police academy association held by police officers who were his students when he was an instructor at the academy.
Yoshida had worked in the enforcement team, which mainly handles security at events featuring large crowds, and was quickly promoted.
The prefectural police questioned three police officers who worked in the team-a 47-year-old superintendent, a 43-year-old inspector and a 36-year-old senior policeman.
The superintendent told investigators that he spent 3 million yen on the healing service, while the senior policeman said he spent 7 million yen to buy religious goods.
Yoshida used his personal ties to lure colleagues into the salon, the police said.
According to investigators, Yoshida gave the woman 10 million yen to open the Aoyama Salon.
The rent for the salon in the Akasaka district of central Tokyo is 1.5 million yen a month.
The police said the woman found herself short of funds, and sought help from Yoshida, who helped her procure the money.
To raise money to operate the salon, Yoshida persuaded police academy graduates and instructors to join fictitious investment schemes, saying they would get a 3 percent annual return for every 500,000 yen they invested.
The prefectural police questioned five other officers who attended the police academy graduates’ gatherings with Yoshida.
Four said they had invested a total of 4.3 million yen with Yoshida.