Japanese Citizen Sentenced for $557,000 Bank Fraud in Which He Recruited Compatriots to Open Accounts

July 12, 2014 · 11 comments

A Japanese citizen was sentenced in a Bay Area federal court on Friday to four years and three months in prison for conspiring in a $557,000 bank fraud in which he recruited compatriots to come to the United States to open accounts used in the scheme.

Yasuhiro Watanabe was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar, who also ordered him to pay $556,744 in restitution to Bank of America and Compass Bank.

Watanabe pleaded guilty before Tigar in March to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said Watanabe admitted in the plea that approximately once per month between 2009 and 2013, he recruited people in Japan to travel with him to the United States to open accounts at bank branches in California, Nevada and Arizona.

Watanabe would fund the accounts with wire transfers of between $1,000 and $2,000 from bank accounts in Japan. He typically paid his associates’ travel expenses and a fee of $1,000, Haag said.

Watanabe would then use the bank debit cards in Japan to buy items such as train tickets and jewelry that cost more than the amount remaining in the bank accounts, and would then resell the goods in Japan for cash.

Prosecutors said in a filing that the scheme caused Bank of America to lose about $450,000 and Compass Bank $106,000.

Watanabe’s lawyer, Assistant Federal Public Defender Angela Hansen, unsuccessfully sought a lesser sentence of three years and one month in prison.

Hansen said in a sentencing brief that Watanabe is “deeply ashamed and remorseful for what he did” and that he carried out the scheme to support his wife and two young children.

1 Wellgeez July 12, 2014 at 12:11 PM

Maybe banks shouldn’t authorize charges on a debit card that exceed “the amount remaining in the bank account.”

You know the banks do that to get rich on overdraft fees.

Bank of America’s overdraft fee is $35 per transaction.

Compass Bank’s overdraft fee is $32 per transaction.

How much of the $450,000 an $106,000 were made up of the overdraft fees alone?

2 TinFoiler July 12, 2014 at 12:46 PM

“Bank Fraud”? Would that be like the Privately owned federal reserve bank?
Time to bring back Publicly owned banks and bring down the Epic fraudsters.
Yasuhiro Watanabe is just a low level fall guy and distraction.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zwKbpLFL7Hw

3 Anonymous July 12, 2014 at 2:01 PM

In the olden days a Japanese person who shamed his family would commit seppuku.

Case closed

4 Anon July 12, 2014 at 3:26 PM

So…. BNks gave money on accounts hat had no money ? ???
We’ll played…..

5 JD July 12, 2014 at 5:25 PM

@ #3- Absolutely correct. He should commit jisatsu to save face for his family. Even a low ranking Yakuza thug would cut off a finger to a knuckle to show his shame. Another tradition being lost by an entitled generation. Next thing you know they’ll be making instant ramen and eating it with a fork.

6 Dr. Jellyfinger® July 12, 2014 at 7:04 PM

I had a Japanese Uncle who tried to commit seppuku….. but he didn’t have the guts.

7 Anonymous July 12, 2014 at 8:39 PM

Dr Jellyfinger

Today’s prize for wittiest post goes to you!

8 cainmyrearview July 13, 2014 at 12:36 PM

This guy is a piker!! He only got 1/2 a million in three years! That’s too much work. He should have set himself set up with the US Government as a contractor. He could defraud them of millions!!

9 Before I read the comments I was was going to suggest Hara Kiri would be a fitting fate for this Maggot. July 13, 2014 at 1:01 PM

I am appalled to see that at least two of you beat me to it….!

10 Marissa July 13, 2014 at 1:42 PM

Fraud and embezzlement gets more time time than manslaughter. Go figure…

11 tired of taxes July 14, 2014 at 1:39 PM

If you’re an individual and stead half a million from the bank you go to jail.
If you’re a bank and steal billions from the people, you’re too big to jail.
Go figure.

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