Former SKE48 member claimed to be an investing expert with a can’t-fail get-rich-quick scheme.

Show business is a young person’s game, and that goes double for being an idol singer, where most performers end up retiring before they hit their mid-20s. Take, for example, Juna Yamada. Yamada joined SKE48, the Nagoya-based sister group of Japan’s top idol unit AKB48, in 2013, and she “graduated” from the group in 2019, still a few months shy of her 21st birthday.

At that age, Yamada obviously wasn’t going to be retiring from working life entirely, and her age wasn’t going to be a major problem in terms of starting a career in an entirely different field. Unfortunately, according to the Aichi Prefectural Police, the field she chose to go into was fraud.

▼ Juna Yamada, in her SKE48 days, posing in a way that oddly resembles a mugshot

At some point in time, Yamada made the acquaintance of Hiromu Kurumadachi, the owner of a Nagoya consulting company called THE (each letter, T, H, and E, is pronounced separately). Together they formed a plan in which Yamada would register profiles on dating apps and lure in young, gullible men, not just through her looks and charms, but by also claiming to be an investment expert earning 10 million yen (US$96,600) a year through her skillful prediction of currency exchange rate fluctuations and manipulation of binary options. Yamada would then meet up with the men, investigators say, and with coaching from Kurumadachi give them a sales pitch about her “investment logic that guarantees you’ll make a profit,” along with some perfunctory financial mumbo jumbo, then ask them to pay her for her advice.

The Aichi Prefectural Police believe these actions constitute criminal misrepresentation and fraud, and on March 16 they arrested Yamada, Kurumadachi (who they describe as the ringleader), and two other accomplices. Kurumadachi denies all of the charges, while Yamada’s current stance is denial of only fraudulent intent, apparently admitting that she did misrepresent herself.

▼ Ironically, in 2017 Yamada was made an honorary police officer for a day as part of a local publicity event.

The arrests stem specifically from a January 31, 2020 incident when Yamada met with a man she’d met through a dating app at a hotel lounge in Nagoya and collected 500,000 yen from him for financial advice. In total, though, investigators believe that she and the 24-year-old Kurumadachi defrauded over 100 men Yamada made contact with out of a total of roughly 58 million yen.

Sources: Yahoo! Japan News/CBC TV via Jin, Yomiuri Shimbun, Asahi Shimbun Digital
Top image: Pakutaso
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