"Look at me now -- starting a job that pays just 150,000 yen a month!"
Seated on a park bench, 33-year-old Shinji Tanimoto (a pseudonym) rues his past career as an "It's me, send money" swindler. Through an old friend's introduction, he'd joined a group of confidence men working out of Kyushu. Within six months, he tells Spa! (May 25), he was overseeing three groups and personally raking in 5 million yen a month.
After two years, however, the job took its toll and through a sense of guilt and nihilism, Tanimoto decided to call it quits.
"By then I'd saved 100 million yen," he says. "I was looking around for something to invest it in, and this guy suggested I go tie up with him in a tuna farming venture in China. I even went there with him to take a look-see and was told that with the coming boom in Japanese food in China, it would be sure to take off. I sank in 50 million yen.
"As it turned out, the local authorities wouldn't issue us a permit. They held out for bribes. So I sank in another 10 million yen. Then the local land prices began soaring, and I invested another 20 million. Right after that, the guy vanished. It seems he'd been running flimflams like that for years. I couldn't file a complaint to the police because they'd ask about the source of my capital."
Ex-millionaire Tanimoto now lives with his mother. To put an end to her nagging, he says next week he'll be going for an interview as a part-time janitor he found advertised in a job recruitment magazine.
For 41-year-old ex-con Kotaro Nishijima (also a pseudonym), the days of glory are long past. He currently earns 300,000 yen a month behind the wheel of a minivan, transporting young women employed by a delivery health (outcall sex service) to and from assignations at love hotels.
At one time, Nishijima lorded over a group of 80 fraudsters who, in a good month, bilked naïve victims out of as much as 700 million yen.
"The home, car and all the big items I bought with the money were used against me as evidence," he rues. "When you're at the point where you can afford to buy anything, suddenly material items don't seem to matter any more."
Nishijima let the good times roll, hopping from one cabaret club to the next -- as many as 20 in one evening -- sometimes dropping 6 million yen a night.
This flamboyant lifestyle, however, soon caught the eye of thieves.
"One night a bunch of guys ganged up on me in my house," he relates. "When I came to, a cash box with 200 million yen that I'd concealed under the floor was gone. Naturally I didn't dare report the robbery to the cops."
After serving a two-year prison sentence, Nishijima moved into a single-room apartment the size of six tatami mats. The most he can afford these days are drinks in cheap izakaya two or three nights a month.
"The take from swindling can't buy the trust or reputation needed to make it in legitimate businesses, so at best, the funds are used as 'seed money,'" says Spa's confidential source, a Mr T, who tells the magazine that the most common spin-off businesses from the illicit gains include property investments, moneylending, used-car dealerships, bars and "pink" businesses, underground casinos and agencies that dispatch performers in adult videos.
One con artist used his ill-gotten gains to return to his home town and start a business buying and reimporting old Japanese cars from Southeast Asia.
"They looked like junk, but he'd recondition them and sell them to classic car collectors at premium prices," says T.
Most swindlers, however, display scant business acumen. T supposes fewer than 20% of the firms they establish ever prove successful.© Japan Today