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Police say a man who held four elementary schoolgirls captive before committing suicide had been using high school girls to recruit younger girls for part-time jobs, investigative sources said Saturday.

Two years ago, Saitama Prefectural Police investigated the man, identified as Kotaro Yoshisato, on suspicion of illegally selling pornographic videos, the sources said. At that time, however, police were unable to establish a case due to a lack of evidence.

The police said Yoshisato, 29, had held the four girls captive in an apartment in Tokyo since Sunday. The girls, two 11-year-olds and two 12-year-olds are all sixth-grade students at an elementary school in the city of Inagi, Tokyo. They were rescued Thursday after one of them managed to free herself and seek help.

According to the sources, Yoshisato went about luring girls by using their peers as helpers, and had used rooms at hotels to conduct “interviews” to ease the girls’ doubts about his offers of part-time jobs.

In the latest case, Yoshisato approached one of the four girls earlier this month in Tokyo’s Shibuya entertainment district.

On July 12, the day before the four girls went missing, Yoshisato used an unidentified girl, probably in high school and whom he had paid, to convince them to discuss part-time job opportunities, according to the police.

The police said Yoshisato tied the girls up after they arrived at his apartment on Sunday.

The sources said Yoshisato had been the target of a number of earlier police investigations. According to the police, Yoshisato threw away leaflets advertising pornographic videos and a list of about 100 customers near another of his apartments, in Kuki, Saitama Prefecture, in September 2001.

The police said local sanitation officials found the discarded leaflets and reported them to the prefectural police. The police were unable to confirm that any of the videos had actually been sold because they were unable to contact any customers on the list.

The police believe that Yoshisato first became involved in the prostitution business around that time.

According to the police, Yoshisato was registered as a Yokohama resident but had been living for more than 10 years at the apartment in Kuki. Two or three years ago, however, he no longer visited the property and moved around hotels in Tokyo’s Shibuya and Shinjuku districts.

Yoshisato was found dead inside the apartment under a plastic sheet with burned charcoal in a stove at his feet.

During their captivity, the four girls were handcuffed to water tanks and dumbbells, with their eyes covered by masks and their feet tied to their hands.