Former Vegas exec guilty of running Ponzi scheme

This past Tuesday, a former Las Vegas executive was found guilty of running a Ponzi scheme that scammed investors out of $1.5 billion.  72-year-old Edwin Fujinaga had been charged with fraud and money laundering after being arrested by the FBI three years ago. 

Fujinaga led a company called MRI International, which reportedly purchased unpaid medical accounts from health care providers, according to the marketing material he gave potential investors.  He promised returns of between 6.5% and 10.3% over two to five years, resulting in thousands of investors jumping onboard.  However, less than 2% of the funds were actually used to buy the accounts.  The fraud was perpetrated out of Las Vegas and Tokyo.

In 2013, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) sued MRI, accusing it of running a Ponzi scheme.  Three years later, it was ordered to pay a fine of over $580 million to settle the case.  A few months later, Fujinaga, along with two others, were arrested by the FBI, with the DOJ asserting, “[Fujinaga] used the balance of investors’ funds for impermissible business and lavish personal expenses, such as a private jet; a mansion on a Las Vegas golf course; real estate in Beverly Hills, California wine country, and Hawaii; and luxury cars from Bentley, McLaren, and Bugatti."

The trial lasted five weeks and the jury only took three hours to return a verdict.  Fujinaga was found guilty on nine counts of wire fraud, eight counts of mail fraud and three counts of money laundering.  He is set to be sentenced next March. 

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