Tokyo police have arrested 26 people in a "side job" fraud case in which a total of ¥1.91 billion or more is believed to have been taken from about 8,600 victims across Japan.

The Metropolitan Police Department has also searched a total of 11 locations in Tokyo and four other prefectures, including a building that housed a fraud group to which the suspects, including Kazuki Suzuki, 48, belonged.

The 26 were arrested for allegedly defrauding a woman in her 40s in Tokyo out of a total of ¥407,000 between July and September 2023 in the name of fees related to her use of a website on side jobs operated by the fraud group.

The police department did not disclose whether they admitted to the charges.

On the now-defunct side job website, the fraud group advertised that compensation would be paid for listening to a life advice seeker, and had those who registered exchange messages with group members pretending to be advice seekers, according to police sources.

Group members then offered to pay compensation to such people, asked them to set up a private line to send bank account and other personal information, and demanded that they pay several hundred thousand yen as fees for the private line.

The group ran multiple side job websites while recruiting members through social media and paying them an average of about ¥500,000 as monthly wages.

Many of those who registered with the websites are believed to have been women in their 20s and 30s, as the websites said that advice seekers were only men.

The websites also had fake posts claiming to have earned several hundred thousand yen after registering with the websites.