Supreme Court’s ruling sends warning to special fraud groups

The Yomiuri ShimbunThe defendants’ claim of being unaware of the contents does not stand up as an excuse. A Supreme Court ruling handed down last month will give a boost to investigations of so-called special fraud cases.

This came after two criminal trials involving charges of fraud for “receivers” who were the recipients of packages containing cash that had been sent from victims of special fraud such as imposter scams.

The Supreme Court recognized this constituted fraud and found the defendants guilty. The top court judged that the defendants “pretended to be someone else, repeatedly received packages and obtained payment, so it can be recognized they acted with intent.”

Many receivers arrested have insisted they were “unaware the package contained money from fraud victims.” In the latest case, the defendants also asserted they were innocent because they “thought the package didn’t contain cash but something else,” among other claims.

The ruling indicates the Supreme Court is taking a stringent stance against such an unnatural explanation.

Proving the defendants acted with intent was a major challenge, as the court of second instance had found the defendants not guilty in both cases. While there will be case-by-case rulings, the Supreme Court’s decision likely will influence similar trials in the future.

Attention should be paid to the possibility that a person who did not know the actual details could be accused of a crime. Careful investigations will be needed when fraud charges are applicable.

Ensure steady measures

Damage from special fraud, such as bank transfer fraud in which a victim is made to transfer money at a financial institution, is continuing at a high level. About 18,000 cases were reported to police in 2017, with total damage reaching about ¥40 billion. Some of the swindled money reportedly becomes a source of funds for organized crime groups.

The arrest rate in these cases is just about 25 percent, so cracking down on such fraud is an urgent task.

Fraud groups assign roles to each member mainly by an instructor, and their methods are becoming more diverse and sophisticated. In addition to picking up money and cash cards through a lower-ranking receiver, in recent years crimes that have involved improper use of electronic money are also conspicuous.

There has been an endless stream of cases in which young people easily agree to be receivers, a job they regard as part-time work to earn money. This is a serious situation.

In 2017, the Supreme Court found a person who received a package guilty of attempted fraud following a sting operation in which the victim collaborated with police by pretending to be deceived. As such judicial rulings stack up, they should become a deterrent to such crimes.

Many special fraud victims are elderly people. Some of them become physically or mentally unwell after being swindled out of a large sum of money they had saved up as funds for their old age, and others blame themselves for being duped and brood over their problems alone. Only a fraction of the swindled money is ever returned.

Financial institutions and convenience stores actively warn elderly people about such fraud. Local governments provide, without charge, machines that automatically record incoming telephone calls. An extensive range of basic countermeasures should be taken to prevent people from falling victim to these scams.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 10, 2019)Speech


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