Prosecutors on Monday indicted Hogen Fukunaga, founder and former leader of the Honohana Sanpogyo cult, and seven of its senior members on charges of fraud.
The Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office said 55-year-old Fukunaga and the seven, including the group’s No. 2 man Yasunori Ri, 54, swindled five housewives out of 25 million yen between 1994 and 1996.
The five women went to Fukunaga for help with illnesses from which they or their family members were suffering, the indictment says.
Conspiring with his aides, Fukunaga examined the soles of their feet and told them that they or their family members would develop cancer unless they followed the “voice of heaven,” which was instructing the women to pay 25 million yen to undergo Honohana training, it said.
Fukunaga, born Teruyoshi Fukunaga, started preaching in 1980, claiming to be the world’s final savior following Jesus Christ and Buddha. He based his claim on what he called the “voice of heaven.”
After the arrest of Fukunaga and the seven on May 9, Fukunaga allegedly admitted to investigators that he had met the five victims. “I have certainly met them and conveyed the voice of heaven to them, but I don’t remember its contents,” police quoted him as saying.
The arrests were the culmination of nearly four years of police investigations into the cult, which is suspected of defrauding at least 30,000 people out of more than 87 billion yen.