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EDITORIAL | After 'Luffy' Robbery Ring Arrests, Unmask Other Crime Bosses

Of the 2,469 arrests made by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department in 2022 in robbery ring type crimes, only 48 were considered "principal suspects."



home invasion robbery ring
A car transporting one of the robbery ringleader suspects, Toshiya Fujita, enters the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department Shibuya Police Station in Tokyo, on February 7 (© Sankei by Hideo Iida) Hideo Iida

The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department has arrested four suspects in a robbery ring who are believed to have directed a series of brutal, widespread home invasions that took place in 14 prefectures throughout Japan. 

Much about the crime spree still remains unclear. For example, there is a possibility that there are additional higher-ranking members of the crime group or masterminds. They could have been responsible for selecting targets, such as wealthy elderly individuals living alone. Others could also have been responsible for disposing of the money and valuables stolen from the victims.

These are truly heinous crimes that have gravely damaged the sense of security in Japanese society. Hopefully, by investigating the role of the people who were issuing the orders, the police can get a clear picture of the entire crime organization. Police must prevent similar crimes from taking place. 

At the immigration detention facility in Manila, Philippines, where the four suspects were staying, they freely used personal computers and smartphones to coordinate the robberies in several locations in Japan. On the morning of February 7, Kiyoto Imamura and Toshiya Fujita, both 38, were deported to Japan. The deportation of the remaining two, Yuki Watanabe (38) and Tomonobu Kojima (45) followed overnight. They arrived in Japan early on February 8.

home invasion
Tomonobu Saito (Kojima) (Provided by Philippine Immigration Service)
home invasion
Suspect Yuki Watanabe (Provided by Philippine Immigration Service)

Killing for Money

The police plan to first investigate the involvement of these four in the older fraud cases for which they were arrested. Then, the police will look to ferret out their connection to the spate of robberies that has occurred throughout Japan. 

The suspects' methods of carrying out the fraud and robberies were nearly identical. Authorities believe that after recruiting accomplices through sites on the dark web and other means, the four would issue orders concerning targets from their overseas location. Likewise, authorities believe the suspects remotely directed the means to be used for the robberies.

The tactics used might differ between special fraud schemes like the "It's me! It's me!" phone scam (ore-ore sagi) and resorting to violence to grab the victim's valuables. However, the end object remains exactly the same.

Police say total financial losses stemming from special fraud cases increased for the first time in eight years in 2022. Overall, the amount had been trending downward after peaking in 2014. The downtrend had been attributed in part to educational activities conducted by the police, which had made the elderly less likely to be taken in by scam artists.  


This is one reason for the increased use of violent methods, even murder, by the criminals. For the ringleaders and those giving the orders, anything goes as long as they can get their hands on the money and valuables.

robbery ring
Two of the robbery ring suspects deported from the Philippines arrivie in Japan on February 7 at Narita Airport in Japan on their way to processing by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department.. (© Sankei by Kanata Iwasaki)

Unmask All Ringleaders

According to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, it made a total of 2,469 arrests in 2022 in connection with such crimes. But only 48 (1.9%) of those individuals taken into custody were "principal suspects" (ringleaders). Of those, 16 had connections to organized crime groups. 

Of course, these numbers are indicative of just how difficult it is to unmask the ringleaders in this type of crime. Still, the higher up someone is in a criminal group, the closer that criminal is likely to be to the mastermind. Hopefully, in their investigation, the police will be able to track these crimes all the way to the top. 

The four suspects in the current cases had ample time to conspire to destroy evidence while at the detention center in Manila. No doubt, they managed to erase most of the data on the computers and other devices the police have seized. 

Recovering that data might well prove difficult. Still, investigators are expected to do everything in their power to get to the bottom of the whole situation.

These sordid crimes are simply unforgivable. 


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun


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