Aum members held over swindle

The Japan Times/June 24, 2003

Osaka (Kyodo) -- Three members of Aum Shinrikyo were arrested Monday on suspicion of swindling goods worth 500,000 yen from a mentally ill man.

Police also searched several locations, including an Aum facility in Nishinari Ward, Osaka.

Those arrested were identified as Akira Hori, 43, head of Aum's Osaka branch; Nobuyuki Handa, 38; and Eiichiro Motomura, 38.

They are suspected of swindling about 400 books on medicine and religion and about 10 computer software applications from the 31-year-old man on Oct. 14.

They allegedly told the man the items should be discarded because they were possessed by the devil. Police say the three took the books and software to a used book seller and sold them for cash the same day.

The man was first approached by Aum members in September 2000 while he was browsing through the religion section of a bookstore in Osaka's Umeda district, according to police. At their invitation, he began to frequent Aum facilities, including a yoga class.

He was quoted as telling police he does not consider himself a follower, and that he began to sense something was wrong with him mentally as he went to Aum-related sites. Aum, whose members were convicted of committing several heinous crimes in the early and mid-1990s, renamed itself Aleph in 2001.

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