Last month, customs at Narita airport nabbed three drug smugglers, all males in their 50s or 60s. Subsequent investigation resulted in the apprehension of a drug ring of about 10 men, of whom many were in their 70s.
Spa! (March 22) reports the investigators were astonished to find that the elderly men had been recruited as mules to bring drugs into Japan via the network operated by the "Hello Work" public employment office.
"Up to now, the gangs and their middlemen have used foreigners who were more likely to come under scrutiny by customs," says an unnamed drug pusher. "Now they've switched to using women and the elderly, who are more difficult to check. And the smuggling groups are getting more in this way, so they no longer need to disperse their risks. Take the old guy who was nabbed with 5 kilograms of the stuff (with a street price of about 400 million yen). Isn't that impressive? Old guys don't cost much and are the best mules of all!"
Spa! looks at such types of crimes as financial scams and business frauds and finds growing numbers of oldsters preying on each other, and being preyed upon in return.
One new type of scam involves elderly who prey on seniors in two-generation households. The scammer obtains a parcel delivery form (available from any convenience store), fills it in with the recipients' name, and attaches it to a cardboard box filled with waste material which is neatly taped shut. Then, wearing garb that makes him appear like a delivery agent, he arranges to appear at the house when he know the younger family members aren't home. Ringing the bell, he informs the elderly member of the household that the parcel requires cash-on-delivery payment.
"Normally, people will unquestioningly pay between 50,000 to 100,000 yen. They'll see the crook ready to apply his 'hanko' (seal) to the delivery voucher, and are convinced it's genuine," says S, a veteran fraudster.
Seniors whose sex drive has not yet deserted them have also found themselves victimized by various swindles. As one account goes, the female proprietor of a certain drinking establishment began ordering Viagra from the Internet and set herself up as a supplier to elderly customers. After peddling the pills, she would introduce the men to middle-aged hostesses who were willing to have sex with the johns. The women would find ways to defraud the men, such as by offering to buy their cars or other valuables and then reselling them to a fence without reimbursing them. Another method was to enlist toughs and set up the johns in a "honey trap."
"In the background of organized crimes committed by seniors, I suppose it would be natural to look for such factors as problems in the social safety net and reemployment system, as well as anxieties over the prospects of future poverty," Keio University law professor Tatsuya Ota tells the magazine. "But there's nothing to substantiate any of these. Extremely impoverished seniors are not the ones who are typically turning to crime. The common factor in criminality is not 'poverty' but 'alienation.'"
As opposed to a survey by the prime minister's office in which only 2.6% of seniors living apart from their families said they "have almost no contact with family members," Ota's own research found that among those who've been charged in armed robberies this response was given by 63%; for fraud, 60%; and for homicide, 43%.
"So there's no one to praise them when they do something good, and no one to scold them when they do something they shouldn't," Ota remarks. "The lack of human contacts with their neighbors and especially with children is exacerbating their alienation."
The key to preventing crimes by seniors, Ota concludes, will be added efforts at the community level to make them feel someone cares about them.© Japan Today