Fujinaga might spend his life in prison for the scheme. And Nevada? Well, his conviction doesn’t do anything to diminish its reputation as a scammer’s paradise.
“Nevada has a long tradition of essentially being the headquarters of different kinds of con artists,” John L. Smith told KNPR’s State of Nevada.
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Smith has been following the case.
A person running a Ponzi scheme pays investors with money he gets from new investors.
“He basically paid his investors back a portion of what they paid him as an investment,” Smith said.
With the rest of the money, Fujinaga lived the “high-roller lifestyle,” Smith said. He had luxury houses and a stake in a private jet.
It took several years to finally end the scheme because most of the victims were in Japan and not Las Vegas. It required international cooperation between authorities in Japan, the FBI, the SEC and the Department of Justice.
Smith said Nevada’s incorporation laws are pretty permissive, allowing for bad actors to work in the shadows easily.
Despite the laws and the state’s reputation, the con artist paradise mantle hasn’t hurt Las Vegas’ tourism industry.
“I used to think it did. When I was younger and more naïve I thought it would have a real impact on companies coming to Nevada to do business,” Smith said, “But the fact is, the state – since statehood – has been a place where grifters have come to apply their trade.”
“Las Vegas is a city that has celebrated alcohol consumption like no other,” Smith said.
The Mob Museum will be holding its annual Repeal Day celebration December 5, marking the day Prohibition was officially repealed.
Smith says Las Vegas never really followed prohibition laws. He compares that time period with