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Debt Buying Ponzi Scheme Nets Mastermind 50-Year Prison Sentence

Edwin Fujinaga, the former president and chief executive officer of MRI International Inc., which was said to be an investment firm and medical collections and debt buying operation, has been sentenced to 50 years in prison for orchestrating a $1.5 billion Ponzi scheme.

Fujinaga was convicted of last November of eight counts of mail fraud, nine counts of wire fraud, and three counts of money laundering. He allegedly solicited more than $1 billion in investments from individuals in Japan, promising to invest the money in buying charged-off medical debts and then either recouping money from insurance companies or the individuals who incurred the debt. But only 2% of the funds that were invested were used for that purpose, according to federal prosecutors. The remaining funds were used to pay off earlier investors and to help Fujinaga and his wife live a pretty cushy life in Las Vegas. That included houses in Las Vegas, Beverly Hills, and Hawaii, a private jet, and Bentley, McLaren, and Bugatti luxury cars.

Two other defendants — a father and son who were living in Japan — have been extradited to the United States and are awaiting trial.

Along with the prison sentence, Fujinaga has been ordered to repay $1.1 billion and forfeit $813 million.

Fujinaga ran the scam for four years, between 2009 and 2013, according to prosecutors. Investors were promised that their funds would only be used for the purchase of medical-related accounts receivables. Fujinaga was indicted in 2015 and was found guilty following a five-week trial that ended last November.

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