Nine more foot cultists nabbed

Mainichi Shimbun/June 21, 2000

Police arrested nine members of the Ho-no-Hana Sampogyo religious group Tuesday for allegedly swindling 14 people out of about 57 million yen by falsely telling them that they would suffer cancer unless they participated in its training program.

The total number of arrests made among those linked to the cult now stands at 19.

Atsushi Yamaguchi, 36, a high-ranking member of the foot-reading cult, and Machiko Sato, 47, an adviser to the cult, were among the nine members arrested Tuesday on suspicion of fraud.

The suspects were accused of defrauding 14 people, including housewives, out of a total of 56.87 million yen by falsely telling them the cult members possessed supernatural powers to heal their diseases.

A joint investigative force of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and Shizuoka Prefectural Police also raided four locations linked to the cult the same day, including the homes of Yamaguchi and Sato in Tokyo's Meguro-ku and Shibuya-ku, respectively.

A day earlier, police served new arrest warrants on 10 people linked to the cult on suspicion of fraud, including the cult's former head, Hogen Fukunaga, 55, whose real first name is Teruyoshi.

According to police, Yamaguchi and other suspects allegedly conspired with Fukunaga in defrauding the massive amount of cash out of the 14 people between January 1995 and January 1996.

In the large-scale scam, the cult members threatened that the victims would "contract cancer" if they did nothing about it.

The members further solicited the victims to join training sessions that the members falsely asserted would heal the participants' illnesses.

All in all, the foot-reading cult, based in Fuji, Shizuoka Prefecture, is suspected of defrauding at least 30,000 people out of more than 87 billion yen.

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