Japanese man, son to be held before US trial in Ponzi case

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A federal judge in Nevada reversed a magistrate’s decision and ordered a father and son from Japan to remain jailed in U.S. custody pending trial on fraud charges in what prosecutors call a $1.5 billion international Ponzi scheme.

Attorney Richard Wright, representing former MRI International Inc. executives Junzo Suzuki and his son, Paul Suzuki, declined Thursday to comment about U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro’s decision on Tuesday to keep his clients in federal custody. Trial is scheduled next month.

Navarro overruled Magistrate Judge Cam Ferenbach’s decision April 24 to let the Suzukis be freed to live with relatives in a rented Las Vegas apartment, despite arguments from federal prosecutors that they have the money and motive to flee before trial because they face possibly spending the rest of their lives in U.S. prison.

Ferenbach also was told U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement could deport the two men if they were freed.

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The 70-year-old father and 40-year-old son were arrested several months ago in Japan and extradited in April to the U.S., where they have pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.

They’re facing 18 fraud charges alleging they helped company chief Edwin Fujinaga in a Ponzi scheme that led a jury to find Fujinaga guilty last November of 20 fraud and money laundering charges.

Navarro oversaw that trial and is being asked to sentence the 72-year-old Fujinaga to 50 years or more in prison at sentencing May 23.

Prosecutors say that from 2009 to 2013, more than 10,000 Japanese investors were bilked out of investments in what they were told were claims from a medical collection business.

Fujinaga was found guilty of using new investors’ money to pay off previous investors.

An attorney representing Junzo and Paul Suzuki has said in court they hope to resolve the case before trial.

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