TOKYO - Eight people in southern Japan forked over 150 million yen ($1.27 million) to a man who promised huge returns involving fake American $1 million bills and then disappeared with their money, a news report said Thursday.
The United States Treasury does not make $1 million bills.
The eight, including three who have filed for personal bankruptcy because of the huge outlays in the scam, are considering filing a criminal complaint with police, the national daily Asahi Shimbun said.
Police in Kumamoto, 567 miles southwest of Tokyo, could not immediately comment on the report.
The unidentified investors first heard of the $1 million note from a 52-year-old construction material company president in early 2003, according to Asahi, citing several investors.
The president told them about a “rare” $1 million bill that was for sale in Chengdu, China, and invited them to pool money to buy several such notes promising a return 10 times of their investment, the report said.
The investors were told that the U.S. government printed the bills in 1928 when Chiang Kai-shek was still in power in China to allow Americans to bring their assets back home, Asahi said.
The president showed them a thousand of the $1 million notes featuring a portrait of George Washington at a Tokyo hotel, according to Asahi. The investors were told the notes could be exchanged for smaller denominations in Hong Kong, but no exchange ever took place, it reported.
“We continued to fork over money because we were promised, ‘You’ll get several hundreds of millions of yen in three days,’ or ‘You’ll get that amount in a week,’” one investor was quoted as saying.
By last March, the eight had paid a total of 150 million yen ($1.27 million), but the company president said the bills would be exchanged by the end of April and he disappeared, according to the report.
The largest U.S. denomination ever produced was $100,000 between 1934 and 1935, according to the Treasury.
How can people be so stupid???