A Las Vegas executive and his company were ordered by a federal judge to pay $584.4 million for running what the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission called a Ponzi scheme that bilked thousands of investors, mainly from Japan.
In a decision on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge James Mahan in Las Vegas granted an SEC request that MRI International Inc and its owner, Edwin Fujinaga, be ordered to give up $544.4 million of illegal profit and interest, and to each pay a $20 million civil fine.
Mahan last Oct. 3 found the defendants liable for fraud over a scheme involving accounts receivable, which is money owed for goods or services already delivered.
The SEC accused the defendants of raising more than $813 million by promising to buy accounts receivable from medical companies at a discount and try to recoup the full value from insurers, while promising returns to investors that ranged from 6 percent to 10.32 percent.
But the SEC said the defendants ran an “extensive and egregious Ponzi scheme” in which they used new money to repay older investors, and diverted funds to help Fujinaga afford luxury cars, credit card bills, alimony, child support, and homes in Las Vegas, Hawaii and Beverly Hills, California.
The SEC said Fujinaga and MRI had solicited money from 1998 to 2013, attracting more than 8,000 investors, including from Canada, Malaysia and New Zealand.
By May 2013, MRI had zero balances in the two bank accounts it maintained for investors, according to the regulator.
“Every investment that defendants received allowed them to facilitate their fraudulent scheme,” Mahan wrote on Tuesday.
It is unclear whether the judgment can be paid.
In a Dec. 22, 2014, court filing, the defendants’ lawyer Erick Ferran said MRI no longer exists, and Fujinaga “will likely soon face federal indictment.”
Ferran did not immediately respond on Wednesday to requests for comment.
The case is SEC v. Fujinaga et al, U.S. District Court, District of Nevada, No. 13-01658. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler)