TOKYO police Tuesday arrested three people who they said cheated post offices out of almost 14 million yen by cashing bogus international money orders, originating from Ghana.
Police suspect the trio is part of a US-based crime group that produces forged money orders. The bogus orders have been the bane of post office operations in Japan in recent months.
Police say the suspects used about 190 fake money orders to swindle three post offices in Yokohama out of a total of 13.8 million yen on May 16 and 17 of this year.
The Japanese man took the orders to the post offices of Yokohamako, Konan and Yokohama-Kamiooka and cashed them.
A 38-year-old Nigerian man, 47-year-old French woman and 39-year-old Japanese man identified as Hiroshi Narui were arrested. All three live in Kanagawa Prefecture. The Nigerian man and French woman, who were living together, received the money orders from post offices in Ghana.
The forgeries are all copies of United States Postal Service international postal money orders. Each has a face value of $700, and a company name in English written under “name of sender.”
Police said the watermarked portraits on the counterfeit orders are slightly lighter than those on real ones, and the “USPS” mark is not watermarked at all. The fakes were discovered after being processed by Japan Post's Tokyo Business Centre of Postal Savings, where all international money orders are checked after being converted to cash.
Centre officials discovered the scam after asking USPS to confirm the money orders.
In total, post offices in nine prefectures have now fallen victim to the scam, Japan Post said. In March, a post office in Kawasaki was cheated out of about 200,000 yen with bogus international money orders, and an Osaka post office was taken for nearly 300,000 yen in April.
All the fake international postal money orders discovered in Japan this year were forged USPS ones, according to investigators with the Metropolitan Police Department.