The mastermind is still at large, but police are optimistic they’ll catch ’em all.

For a while now, Pokémon cards have been considered a hot investment, with some of the rarest cards skyrocketing in value in recent years. However, when large sums of money start getting involved the criminal element also tends to come out of the woodwork.

Card shops are having to incorporate security systems on par with jewelry and antique shops to keep ahead of increasingly aggressive burglars with eyes on a mint-condition Charizard. Just this week one caper that spanned most of the country was thwarted by the Tokyo police, who arrested 35-year-old Masaki Omori of Okinawa for stealing some 1,500 cards.

It all began when Omori applied for a “yami baito” or “dark part-time job” which is a one-time, high-pay, and high-risk criminal endeavor at the request of someone, often made over social media.

▼ A news report on the arrest

Omori’s job was to travel to Akihabara in Tokyo and steal Pokémon cards. A specific shop was designated by the person or people who hired him, and although it also sold other goods like mobile phones, Omori was instructed to only get cards. If successful he would be paid over one million yen.

The suspect flew to Ibaraki on 11 April using his own money and rented a car from there to travel to Akihabara. At about 5:00 a.m. on 12 April, Omori smashed through a window of the unoccupied store and proceeded to take about 1,500 cards worth approximately 1.15 million yen (US$8,240).

Omori then took the cards to a rendezvous in an Ibaraki park and handed them over to his contact. He was then informed to pick up his payment at a separate rendezvous on a later date, but when Omori went there, no one else showed up.

▼ Maybe too many of those 1,500 cards were energy cards and his employers were upset.

After his arrest, he told police that he needed money to cover living expenses after incurring heavy losses from gambling. The authorities are currently using his smartphone to track down the person or persons who hired him and currently have the stolen merchandise.

Online comments about the crime have included:

“There’s too much Pokémon-card-related crime these days.”
“It’s amazing that people would do all this just for some cards.”
“You have to admire the longevity of Pokémon.”
“They’re light, hard to trace, and easy to sell. They’re way easier to steal than jewelry or cars.”
“It’s a lot easier that robbing a bank.”
“These people probably want to resell the cards themselves, so aside from the obvious criminal problems, the Pokémon card resale market really needs to be re-examined.”

It’s hard to know how long the Pokémon card resale market can sustain its current level in order to make any significant changes that reduce crime. The issue of yami baito, however, might be a more prolonged concern as criminals seem now able to very easily recruit what in many cases appear to be patsies to help them distance themselves from incrimination.

Source: Asahi Shimbun Digital, NHK News Web, Yomiuri Shimbun Online,
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