A father and his son, who were both executives at a medical debt collection business, each pleaded guilty yesterday to charges of wire fraud and will face up to five years in prison each for their role in a Ponzi scheme that bilked investors out of $1.5 billion.
Junzo Suzuki and his son Paul were set to face trial next month for their roles in the scam, which solicited funds from investors in Japan who thought they were buying into a company that purchased unpaid debts from companies in the healthcare industry. Investors gave the company, which was run by Edwin Fujinaga, more than $1 billion, but only 2% of that was used to invest in purchasing debt portfolios, according to federal prosecutors. The remaining funds were used to pay off earlier investors and furnish a lavish lifestyle for Fujinaga and his wife, who lived in Las Vegas.
Fujinaga was sentenced to prison for 50 years for orchestrating the scheme.
The two Suzukis were arrested in Japan in 2019 and extradited to the United States to face trial for their role. Junzo Suzuki was an executive vice president for the company — MRI International, and Paul was a general manager for the company.
If accepted by the judge in the case, both will be sentenced to 60 months in prison and be subject to three years of supervised release after their sentences are over. As part of the plea, the sentences for Junzo and Paul Suzuki were contingent on each of them accepting the deal. Had the pair gone to trial and been found guilty, they were each facing terms of 20 years in prison.
While Junzo and Paul were initially unaware that Fujinaga was operating a Ponzi scheme, once informed of that, the father and son continued to raise more money from investors, according to the plea agreement.