Three people were given prison terms Wednesday over a bogus Tokyo land sale in 2017 that targeted home builder Sekisui House Ltd.
In the first ruling related to the case, in which 10 people were indicted, the Tokyo District Court sentenced Masami Haketa, 64, and Koko Akiba, 75, to four years in prison each and Yoshihiro Tokoyoda, 68, to a term of four years and six months. All of them had pleaded guilty.
Among the other seven members of the suspected land scam group, Misao Kaminsukasu, 59, is believed to have been the mastermind. His trial has not yet begun.
“It was an extremely evil and highly organized crime, in which many members played a role,” presiding Judge Toshikazu Ishida said when handing down the rulings Wednesday.
Ishida also said he “cannot overlook” the fact that the criminal group’s use of falsified documents damaged confidence in the real estate registration system.
According to the ruling, the three colluded to swindle the major Japanese home builder out of about ¥5.5 billion ($51 million) in a deal to sell a 2,000-square-meter plot of land in a highly sought after location in Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo, between March and June in 2017.
Haketa impersonated the female owner of the land by using a fake passport, while Akiba and Tokoyoda recruited Haketa and coached her on how to act like the landowner.
The land, located near Gotanda Station, was the site of a now-closed inn. The real owner was hospitalized in February 2017 and died in June that year, according to police.
After paying for the land plot, Sekisui House tried to change its ownership, but the company’s application was rejected by the Legal Affairs Bureau after the documents provided by the suspects were found to have been falsified.
The prosecutors had sought seven-year prison terms for Haketa and Akiba, and a five-year jail term for Tokoyoda.
During the trial the defense team for Haketa sought leniency, saying she “didn’t understand the whole picture and just followed what her accomplices told her.”
But Ishida rejected the defense, saying that Haketa had “played an essential role” by pretending to be the landowner, sitting at the negotiation table and showing the fake passport to a judicial scrivener and others.
Kaminsukasu was arrested in January after being detained in the Philippines, where he had fled a few days before other members of the group were detained last October. The prosecutors indicted him in March.