Japanese Cult Ordered To Pay $926K

Associated Press/November 13, 2000

A Japanese court on Monday ordered a cult and its founder to pay $926,000 to 16 people who said they were told they would get cancer unless they joined the group.

The ruling by the Osaka District Court is the second against the Ho-no-Hana Sampogyo group and founder Hogen Fukunaga, who claimed to cure diseases by inspecting the soles of people's feet.

Another court on Friday ordered the cult to pay $51,000 to a woman who claimed she was defrauded in 1994.

In Monday's ruling, Presiding Judge Keisuke Hayashi said the group and its former leader used methods to solicit membership which were "systematic and beyond the socially acceptable level and unlawful."

The 16 plaintiffs said that they were forced to pay $759,000 and that Fukunaga said they would get cancer unless they joined him.

Fukunaga is charged with defrauding 31 people of $1.39 million between 1994 and 1997.

Japanese police have been cracking down on fringe religious groups since late last year, when a senior member of a doomsday cult involved in the 1995 nerve gas attack on Tokyo's subways was released from prison.

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